Pretoria - Police units and armed private security were on high alert at the United Arab Emirates embassy in Pretoria on Friday as members of local diplomatic staff union Ulemasa protested against alleged human rights abuses and labour law infringements at the diplomatic mission.
"Employees are being dismissed anyhow and the embassy officials contend that they are immune to South African law. They say they can do whatever they see fit with these workers. We are here to fight that. The Vienna Convention states clearly that the sending state [of a diplomatic mission] must respect the laws of the receiving state," said the Union of Local Employees of Missions Accredited to SA's (Ulemasa) general organiser, Ayanda Molefe.
"We are here to enforce compliance within the embassy. We are pleading with Dirco [the department of international relations] a to ensure that the embassies comply with the Labour Relations Act. They must comply with the Constitution of South Africa. Dirco is very much aware of the abuses going on in the embassies. This is not the only embassy where workers are enduring ill-treatment."
She said the abuses common in the diplomatic missions in Pretoria include sexual exploitation, long working hours and at times physical assault of workers.
"Workers in the United Arab Emirates embassy here endure racism, discrimination against women. This embassy does not comply with the Labour Relations Act of this Republic. We want them to comply," she said.