Domestic workers’ union welcomes court ruling

SADSAWU says that it is concerned about the fact that domestic workers still fall below the national minimum wage. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi

More than 1 million domestic workers around the country are now eligible for compensation for occupational injuries and diseases after a landmark court ruling.

The South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) has welcomed the Pretoria High Court ruling that the exclusion of domestic workers from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) is unconstitutional. COIDA was enacted in 1993 and sets down the responsibilities and processes to compensate employees – or their surviving dependents – for work-related injuries, illness or death.

“We are happy with the court ruling. It means we are finally acknowledged but the fact that we had to go to court and that for 6 years we were not covered by COIDA even though South Africa ratified Convention 189 in 2013, does not bode well with us,” said SADSAWU Western Cape provincial organiser, Gloria Kente. Convention 189 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which South Africa ratified in 2013, includes domestic workers in its determination of decent working conditions. Specifically, the convention encourages governments to put measures in place to “ensure workers’ occupational safety and health”.

According to Kente, SADSAWU supported the case which was brought to court by Sylvia Mahlangu, a daughter of a domestic worker who died after falling from a ladder whilst cleaning windows. Mahlangu was also supported by the United Domestic Workers of South Africa.

In an email response, Compensation Fund Commissioner, Vuyo Mafata, stated that the department was not opposed to the court application and that “the court order was a joint order agreed to by the parties as we agreed that it was unconstitutional to have domestic workers excluded from coverage of the act.”

Mafata says that they have been working on amendments of COIDA since 2011 with different levels of participation by domestic workers. “The next step is to incorporate the public comments and send the Bill to Parliament for further processing,” he said.

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