File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - The Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) on Tuesday condemned as "misplaced and ill-informed" the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Home Affairs for calling for a total ban of cellphone use by the department's front desk staff.

Chairperson of the portfolio committee, Hlomani Chauke, on Monday urged the department to consider an outright ban on cellphone usage by front line staff during working hours at all Home Affairs offices. 

This was after the committee received numerous complaints from the public about delays at Home Affairs offices following a video that surfaced on social media showing two officials using cellphones while people waited in a queue at Home Affairs Tongaat offices in KwaZulu-Natal. 

The department said that it has launched a probe into the incident as the use of cellphones by front office officials while performing their duties is prohibited.

PSA general manager Ivan Fredericks said all stakeholders agreed in the bargaining chamber on the Home Affairs policy that regulated employees' use of cell phones.  

"The department was part of this process that resulted in the policy being adopted. The PSA therefore wants to sensitise the portfolio committee on its roles and responsibilities and advises it to rather focus on these instead of interfering with government employees’ terms and conditions of employment," Fredericks said.

"These matters are negotiated at the relevant bargaining structures and the committee does not have any power to change these, unless negotiated and agreed upon at sectoral level."

Fredericks said the PSA, as the majority union at Home Affairs, called on the committee to refrain from making "reckless statements" that could provoke unnecessary strike action.

"Such utterances expose public servants to undue public abuse and even physical attacks at the workplace when effective measures are already in place to address such conduct where warranted," Fredericks said.

African News Agency (ANA)