Court orders KZN mortuary assistants to end strike

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Forensic pathology laboratory assistants working at one of three mortuaries in the greater Durban area have been ordered to desist from their illegal strike, which has resulted in post-mortems grinding to a halt and bodies piling up.

News24 reports that following an urgent application in Durban’s Labour Court, Judge Hamilton Cele directed the 20 named employees to immediately report for work at the Pinetown Mortuary. They have also been restrained from disrupting, in any way, the normal functioning of the mortuary and being anywhere near it outside of working hours.

They have until August to respond to the application and give reasons why the interim interdict should not be made final.

The report says the application was launched by Thandi Msimango, acting chief director of eThekwini Metro Health Services for the KZN Department of Health, who was represented by Advocate Faisel Abraham. In her affidavit she said the mortuary was designated an “essential service”.

“It carries out, with the assistance of pathologists, post-mortems to determine the exact manner in which people have died, which information is provided to the police as evidence in criminal proceedings and inquests.

“The laboratory officers are tasked with assisting the doctors and their duties include fetching bodies from scenes, assisting with the post-mortems, dissection of bodies, acting as scribes and assisting with taking tissue samples and reconstructing bodies.” She said post mortems cannot take place without them which was impacting on releasing bodies to family members for funerals and “hampering the administration of justice”.

The report says SAPS members continued to bring in bodies and, at the time of making the affidavit, there were 14 awaiting post mortems and it was expected that every day this would increase by about another seven. The other mortuaries were contacted but they said they had no capacity to take on extra work.

Grieving families – some of whom require immediate post mortems for same-day burials in accordance with their religious beliefs – were being affected and police investigations were being hampered.

“We have been effectively hamstrung and we intend to take disciplinary action against those responsible,” Msimango is quoted in the report as saying.

News24 report

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