Coffins are displayed as a worker is reflected in a window at the Sizo funeral parlour in Soweto Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Coffins are displayed as a worker is reflected in a window at the Sizo funeral parlour in Soweto Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Western Cape largely unaffected by funeral-industry strike action

By Yolisa Tswanya Time of article published Sep 15, 2020

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Cape Town – Undertakers in the Western Cape largely did not participate in the national protest that saw employees down tools across the country.

Thousands of funeral industry employees refused to collect remains, from public and private facilities.

Workers are demanding, among other things, amendments to be made to municipal by-laws to allow bulk storage, removal of the tender system in the industry, and a Covid-19 relief fund.

Emergency Medical Services and Forensic Pathology Services spokesperson Deanna Bessick said they were not able to determine the impact of the strike as yet, but added that none of the undertakers contracted to the department formed part of the strike.

“We will be able to provide more information as the situation unfolds.”

United Undertakers Front co-ordinator Kenny McDillon said they chose to take a neutral stance for a number of reasons.

“We have taken a neutral stance, saying we are speaking to the province and none of our undertakers have gone on any strike.

“There are maybe a few that were forced to close offices but otherwise we have operated as normal.

“Cape Town is also a large base for the Muslim community and we respect their same-day method of burial, so if we think of striking we must consider those people as well.”

He said parties were expected to meet today to discuss a way forward.

“While undertakers today operated as normal we don’t know what tomorrow or the rest of the week holds.”

The Department of Health said it noted the strike and had concerns about it, with spokesperson Popo Maja saying the action may lead to undesired conditions and risks to public health.

He said the department arranged several meetings with industry roleplayers.

“The department would like to emphasise: all funeral undertakers and mortuary premises used in connection with the preparation, storage and preservation of human remains must be in possession of a valid certificate of competence, issued by the relevant local authority.

“Environmental Health Practitioners will continue to conduct inspections at all funeral undertakers’ premises in the country, to ensure compliance with the regulations.

“Legal action will be taken against owners of premises found to be in contravention,” Maja said.

Cape Times

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