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Diplomatic Impunity

2019-03-12

Sexual assault, victimization, bullying, verbal abuse, non-payment of wages and salaries, unfair dismissal, undue pressure to accept illegal employment contracts and gross ill treatment are some of the serious complaints being brought to the attention of ULEMASA, the Labour Union representing local employees of foreign missions accredited to South Africa.

Photo: Mr Kekana whose persistence and fearlessness ensured that staff member receive salaries last paid in July 2018

Mr Richard Muhirhi, the Secretary General of ULEMASA, confirmed that since the establishment of the organization in July 2018, they have had to intervene on behalf of its members on several occasions. Ulemasa has assisted employees in laying charges at police stations and in making applications to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. (CCMA). He has also requested missions to provide payslips to its employees.

Considered low level employees, gardeners, housekeepers and cleaning staff have borne the brunt of exploitation and unfair treatment.  At one mission locally recruited staff have not been paid since July 2018. Other staff have been duped into signing one year contracts having no claim for pension or long term service claim as was the case with one worker who was let go after 22 years of service with no benefits.

Constant engagement and persistence by staff with the support of the Union has brought about settlements and resolutions for some members. The Union’s membership has grown to over 250 and is establishing itself in a spirit of dialogue and openness as it aims to settle disputes. It is also gathering information and carrying out research.

Benchmarking with South Africa’s missions conditions of employment, remuneration and perks for medical insurance, pension, unemployment fund and others are being compared. ULEMASA has also reached out to other organizations in the world that are addressing issues of rights and status of diplomatic mission workers.

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has welcomed the intervention by the union and issued a note verbal in January 2019 to the representative missions instructing them to comply with South Africa’s laws in the spirit of universal human rights.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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February 2019

 
 
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