Cape Town – Unions for domestic workers and other civil society organisations said the deadline for the domestic workers to apply for retrospective claims, on injuries sustained at work, was unreasonably short.
The compensation commissioner advertised, in the Government Gazette, that the cut off date for the claims was November 20.
Domestic workers were included in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), from November last year, in a judgment by the Constitutional Court. It also ruled that the order of constitutional validity was to have immediate and retrospective effect from April 27, 1994.
The Social Economic Rights Institute (SERI) researcher Kelebogile Khunou said the public has not yet been made aware of the opportunity to remedy past injustices for domestic workers who have been injured, or dependants of those who have died.
“What is needed is for the subject of the inclusion of domestic workers in COIDA and retrospective claims to be published in the media, for clear information about how to go about registering and how claiming will be handled; and, ultimately, for domestic workers to be assured that they will be assisted throughout the process.
“To do justice to the spirit of the judgment, it would be important to give adequate time to the entire process, which would include educating domestic workers who have retrospective claims, as well as their employers, about the steps which need to be taken,” said Khuno.
“Since we have not heard of any educational campaigns at this stage or any efforts to encourage and support domestic workers who have claims, the injustices of the past will be perpetuated should the deadline for retrospective claims come and go,” he said.
The South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers’ Union (SADSAWU) general secretary Myrtle Witbooi said no domestic workers have claimed, as the process has to start with employers registering the workers.
United Domestic Workers of South Africa president Pinky Mashiane said it was unrealistic for the department to give domestic workers 12 months to claim for a right that they had been deprived of for 27 years.
“What is 12 months, for domestic workers who know nothing about COIDA? We still have to educate them, go around the country and assist them to put in their claims, and it's already May now.
“We demand 36 months to reach all workers, educate them, and assist them to put in their claims. We started with the case of Mahlangu, in 2012, and only after eight years we got justice – but they're trying to put us in a corner, pressurise us, and come up with an absurd, unreasonable, and irrational time frame,” she said.