Undertakers protesting outside a government mortuary in Durban during a national strike. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)
Undertakers protesting outside a government mortuary in Durban during a national strike. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

National undertaker strike over

By Nathan Adams Time of article published Sep 20, 2020

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The strike action by funeral undertakers has come to an end but they maintain it was necessary for them to shock government into action.

Late on Thursday evening, the news broke that the strike action had come to an end, after thousands of undertakers across the country took part in protests, carrying empty coffins through city streets and to hospitals and Home Affairs offices.

Part of their grievances was that hospitals insisted that undertakers present a Certificate of Competency (COC) which small business owners and funeral homes were not able to do.

In its notice that the strike had ended, The Unification Task Team (UTT) said: “Department of Health responding & agreeing to all our demands is a great achievement, which makes the strike a success.”

In the letter they listed that the “Department has agreed to the following demands of the funeral industry:

- Hospitals, mortuaries and everybody else are prohibited to request a COC from the funeral undertaker, before & after making a removal. Only the Environmental Health Practitioner is allowed to request a COC, but only when he/she is in the premises where a mortuary is built. The COC speaks to the storage of human remains, and nothing else.

- The building of cluster, bulk, and complex storages by a group of funeral undertakers is allowed, only if it’s in line with the COC regulations.

- Small & emerging funeral undertakers are also allowed to outsource storage facilities, however only a storage facility with a valid COC can store human remains."

The President of the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa (Nafupa SA), Muzi Hlengwa said that if their demands were not met at 300 000 would lose their jobs.

“A lot of people would have lost their income, it was never only about the small parlours but their employees as well,” Hlengwa said if their demands were not met.

Home Affairs Acting Director-General, Jackson McKay makes a commitment on behalf of Home Affairs and the Department of Health, to address the groups concerns. He said: “Having read and understood the concerns as raised in your Memorandum, I am of the view that both relevant government departments and the funeral undertakers industry find ways and means of engagement to address areas of mutual concern.”

The UTT confirmed that it was meeting with government officials this week to iron out any remain issues but that it is satisfied that the government is willing to engage and listen to them.

Weekend Argus

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