More than 3 000 funeral industry employees countrywide have started to down tools on Monday, refusing to collect corpses from both government, private hospital and residential premises.
They demand the outsourcing of mortuary facilities to be recognised and legalised, and the amendment of municipal by-laws to enable cluster storage.
In Polokwane, a quick survey showed that most funeral parlours are open for business.
Three funeral parlours reportedly received threats from members of an umbrella organisation representing the sector.
Most parlour owners Polokwane Observer spoke to, did not want to be named for fear of intimidation and reprisal.
There are at least nine umbrella organisations in the funeral industry, some of which are reportedly sowing fear among businesses, threatening workers to join the strike.
According to an informed source, many in the industry are striking because of fly-by-night operators who are not licensed and who don’t comply with regulations.
These operators want licensed operators’ support to keep on operating.
One funeral parlour owner said they remain open despite the threats, as clients pay monthly fees and expect a service to be rendered once the time comes to bury a loved one.
“We cannot not bury. Our clients pay and it would not be fair to them to not offer the service.”
One of the bigger funeral parlours in the city was expected to make a decision yesterday (Wednesday) about the way forward.
The strike was also expected to end yesterday (Wednesday) but the organisations have warned that they will intensify action should government fail to meet the demands.
Health Spokesperson, Popo Maja advised family members of deceased persons to check the legitimacy of the undertakers and agents being utilised for the overall management of the burial of their loved ones, to ensure proper tracking and tracing, and that the handling of the remains is done with dignity and within the prescripts of the law.
Any illegal operations to ensure the public can be protected from potential risks and the spread of communicable diseases as a result of poor management of human remains, should be reported, he advised.
“Environmental health practitioners in district and/or metropolitan municipalities can be contacted for assistance on issues relating to the management of human remains and for advice, to ensure compliance with the regulations. We will not allow non-compliance in this sensitive area. The department is willing to continue with talks with those in the sector, to come to an amicable solution.”
Story: Nelie Erasmus