SAFTU celebrates the historic victory of the domestic workers!

SAFTU celebrates the historic victory of the domestic workers!

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) joins hundreds of thousands of domestic workers who are celebrating a colossal victory they scored at the Constitutional Court on the 19 November 2020.

The Constitutional Court issued its historic verdict that the exclusion of the domestic workers from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) is unconstitutional. What is the real cause of celebration is that the Constitutional Court declaration that this decision applies retrospectively.

This means all domestic workers who got injured at work from the time COIDA came to effect can claim compensation for their injuries in line with the provisions of COIDA. This goes back to 1993 as amended in 1997. In anticipation of the Constitutional Court ruling, Cabinet approved amendments in 2019 which are much welcome as they already extend the cover to domestic workers.

The background to this victory underlines the super-exploitation, tribulations, pain, abuse and the semi-feudal relationship that exist between many domestic workers and their bosses, including even the black employers who are themselves the survivors of the brutal apartheid and colonialism.

Maria Mahlangu was washing the top windows outside the bedroom located outside the pool when she slipped from the step ladder and fell into the pool. She drowned and regrettably died. For 10 years Maria Mahlangu has worked for the same employer who never thought it was important to get swimming lessons for her worker. Like many bosses, the employer of Maria Mahlangu tried to conceal the accident and claimed that she died from HIV / AIDS – how cruel!

Her daughter, Sylvia Mahlangu, approached the Department of Labour to inquire about getting compensation for the death of her mother. Sylvia was told Section 1 of the COIDA excluded domestic workers, and as such, there will be no compensation for the Mahlangu family.

An absolute heroine full of guts and determination to fight for justice for Maria Mahlangu, Pinky Mashiane stepped in. At the time she was an Organiser for the SADSAWU and now the President of UDWOSA. With tenacity, she challenged this injustice and, in the process, soliciting help from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) who played a critical role to take the case all the way, registering a significant victory on the 23 May 2019 at the Pretoria High Court and eventually at the Constitutional Court on the 19 November 2020.

SAFTU salutes the role played by Maria Mahlangu’s daughter Sylvia for had she not challenged the authorities, the media and the heroine Pinky Mashiane would have never known about this tragedy. SAFTU salutes SERI and congratulates every lawyer who worked very hard to convince our judges and the Courts that the exclusion of domestic workers was unjust.

Lastly salutes all her affiliated unions who when called upon to pledge solidarity with the Mahlangu family and UDWOSA organised a demonstration outside and inside the Constitutional Court.

This is indeed a very important milestone in a long journey to liberate all vulnerable workers who are segregated and discriminated against through these exclusions. For far too long even during the democratic era, the vulnerable workers were given a status of second class citizenship and workers just as Black workers were once regarded as the employers’ tools not workers during the dark days of apartheid.

SAFTU calls on every domestic worker to take note of this victory so that no worker ever go through the pain of the Mahlangu family.

SAFTU calls on all employers of domestic, farm, security, cleaning, restaurants and hotel workers who are amongst the most vulnerable workers to register their employees with COIDA.

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