AfriForum today explained to the Essential Services Committee (established in terms of the Labour Relations Act, No. 66 of 1995) why private security services and private medical services still need to be classified as essential services in terms of this Act. This follows after the committee was established to investigate the issue of whether these services should be considered essential. The civil rights organisation also forwarded two legal opinions in this regard to the committee.
Section 213 of the Labour Relations Act defines an essential service as including a service the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population. If these private services are not classified as essential, it would imply, among other things, that employees in these industries may go on strike and in doing so endanger the lives of citizens who rely on their functioning.
“South Africans rely heavily on private security services because of the country’s high crime rate and the inability of the SAPS to arrive at a crime scene in good time, owing to the shortage of resources and manpower and other factors. The mere thought of private security services not being regarded as an essential service is outrageous. The lives of citizens literally depend on these services,” says Marnus Kamfer, AfriForum’s Legal and Risk Manager for Community Safety.
According to Natasha Venter, Campaign Manager at AfriForum, the organisation is deeply concerned that the government, through this investigation, intends pushing through the implementation of the ill-conceived National Health Insurance scheme by unjustly prejudicing private medical services.
“Not only would it be unconstitutional not to regard private medical services as essential services, but it would also unnecessarily endanger people’s lives. After all, it is inconceivable that the government could distinguish between whose lives are worth protecting and whose are not. This is exactly what the government would be doing by not classifying private medical services as an essential service. AfriForum cannot allow the government to inflict harm on patients receiving private medical treatment in this way, especially seeing that state hospitals are in dire straits owing to the government’s mismanagement,” Venter concludes.