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'Justice system finally serving domestic workers'

File photo: Pixabay

File photo: Pixabay

Published May 27, 2019


Cape Town – Cosatu has hailed the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling that the exclusion of domestic workers in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) was unconstitutional.

Cosatu Western Cape provincial secretary Malvern de Bruyn said: “The laws of and around employment must cover all workers, not just a select few. We are delighted with the outcome and will be watching closely for the Department of Labour to make haste for this implementation.”

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De Bruyn said Cosatu would watch closely the implementation process and hoped it would come as soon as possible. The landmark ruling was handed down on May 23.

The ruling could mean that domestic workers would be eligible to claim from the compensation fund in the event that they were injured or contracted a disease at their place of employment.

The law currently explicitly excludes domestic workers from the ambit of its protection where the workers can not claim from the compensation fund.

The Domestic Workers Rising campaign said: “The victory at the (North Gauteng) High Court signals the beginning of positive change for over one million domestic workers in South Africa. 

"It is fitting that during a period marking the intersection between Africa Month and Workers Month, the ‘justice’ system is, after seven elusive years, finally serving domestic workers.”

“The exclusion of domestic workers from COIDA was essentially about the exclusion of and disregard for the value of domestic labour and the dignity and rights of workers, who are predominantly women.

“Behind this critical case heard at the North Gauteng High Court is the tragic story of the late Maria Mahlangu, a domestic worker who died at her employer’s home in Fairie Glen, Pretoria, on March 31, 2012, while cleaning her employers windows, and her daughter Sylvia Bongi Mahlangu, who has been without a legal remedy since.

"But it is also a remarkable story of the predominantly black and women-led domestic worker unions as well as a tireless organiser, comrade, Pinky Langa, who embarked, almost single handedly, on a long uphill journey to gain access to justice for domestic workers.

“She faced rejection by at least four lawyers as well as the equality court, and numerous lengthy court delays before finally seeing victory for domestic workers (last week),” said the organisation.

South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (Sadsawu) spokesperson Myrtle Witbooi said: “This was a long battle and we now have to work and campaign to see that we will still be included in the COIDA.”

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