Incompetence of the Labour Department: A Personal Odyssey

Finally after 45 years working I retired. A new obstacle was in my path: incompetent government departments. First in the queue was an attempt to claim from UIF. As a verdict, I can claim that the Department has no more than a passing acquaintance with organisation efficiency and customer service. As incompetence triggers my pugilistic instincts, would I be able to restrain myself sufficiently and not be frog-marched off the premises?


This is the chronicle of that frustrating odyssey.

Main picture: A series of photographs on the theme “Now they Tell Us”

After both Nigel & Myer were able to apply for and receive their UIF by registering online, I rejoiced. Maybe their praise was not effusive but at least I was not bored with a litany of complaints. At least it meant no long queues for me. I can still vividly recall Janine having to stand half a day in a queue on the birth of our children in order to claim UIF.

Now they tell us#02

Was it too much to expect the Department of Labour to have discovered that computers dispense with the requirement to frustrate the users of their services? Apparently they had belatedly made that discovery. Or had they?

In order to ensure no delay in payments, one of my first tasks on the 1st June was to register for UIF online. No, it was not. Janine was in excruciating pain & had to be taken to hospital. With Janine in agony, I could hardly bemoan the fact that I had to sit on a stainless steel bench in A&E for 10 hours while the nursing staff attended to her. This is not to say that I was not inconvenienced by sitting on a hard uncomfortable seat in a sterile waiting room but I could hardly complain to Janine.

Now they tell us#03

When I awoke on June 2nd, I knew why I should have complained about the uncomfortable seats the day before. Now I was in agony. My back felt as if somebody had been attempting to wrestle with me the whole night. It was so serious that I arranged to have an MRI scan later that day.

OK, I resolved. I would have to be the 3rd day of retirement than.

At 5am I logged into efiling & commenced the registration process. No luck. It bemoaned the fact that I had an out of date version of Adobe. I upgraded as required but to my surprise I was using the latest version. Suspecting a connectivity issue, I logged in again. The same error message. I logged in at 22:00 that night. I still received the same message.

Now they tell us#04

At 8am sharp the following morning, I phoned the Labour Department.

“We are experiencing high call volumes and are unable to ………..”

Besides kicking the dog or complaining to the wife who was still sleeping what could I do?

I fumed.

And aged 10 years.

Twenty minutes later I was through to a consultant. She rapidly ascertained that I had been stupid to expect Chrome to work with Efiling. Only IE [Internet Explorer] would work.

“OH!” I chirped, thoroughly deflated.

If it was IE that they wanted, IE it would be.

Now they tell us#05

I attempted to register using IE.

The same confounded message appeared.

I phoned the UIF department back.

The same message warning of high call volumes informed me that I would have to wait.

I put down the phone.

Now they tell us#06

I phoned at 22:00 that night. The same message about high call volumes in the same monotone.

I would phone again at 8am sharp

Now I was prepared. I would watch TV whilst listening to the repeat message a hundred times.

I patiently explained what my problem was, what advice I had received and what had happened, only to be informed that I must accidently have logged in again using Chrome. When I stated categorically that I was looking at IE and not Chrome, I could literally hear the consultant’s mind click into the off mode. I followed the Consultant’s advice. I attempted registering using IE at various times.

Now they tell us#07

No way, Hosea. It wanted the latest Abode update which it had, and would not relent. It would not budge.

I took a two day break. I phoned again with my tale of woe only to be told that I would have to visit a Labour Centre.

I was not psychologically prepared for that so I took a two week break.

In trepidation on the day in question, I ventured at 10am to the Roodepoort Labour Department. Being on a recce, I walked past all the queues. I was informed that they had been standing there since 6am despite the offices opening at 8am.

Now they tell us#08

I did ascertain that there were three queues, the shortist of which was Queue Number 1, the Registration Queue so I joined it. Three hours later I was given a form for the Bank to complete. I did not want to engage in a fight about why the form could not merely be placed on table for Registerers to pick up. NO. NO. The procedure had to be more convoluted.

At the Bank, there was another queue.

By 14:00 finally I was back at the Labour Department and registered.

Now for queue number two. I was offered sage advice. If one did not arrive at 6am, one would not be served. Queue number two actually was the registration process whereas queue number one was the Banking Details.

Now they tell us#09

At 5:55 I was in the queue – behind a 100 other people. I looked at queue number three. Apparently one had to arrive at 4am in order to ensure that one was served.

But that was a problem for another day.

Fortunately I had come prepared. I had a book on 17th century court cases in the Cape Colony. It was prescient. What I was enduring was nothing compared with what the denizens had to endure in those days. Eventually I was even forced to reread some of the cases.

Now they tell us#10

Finally I was seated in front of a consultant. Expecting a two minute registration process, first it was power failure, then a computer connection error, then finally the consultant shared the fact that the line was so slow that it would take at least ten minutes to complete the process.

Finally she was finished.

Now they tell us#11

No, I was not finished. Many of the returns from my previous employer had not been entered. I wanted it sorted out immediately. The consultant obliged as eventually she spoke to BWL’s Salaries Department. Promises were made and I was off.

Finally I was registered for UIF.

What was the process going forward?

“Sir, you will have to join queue three every month and get this piece of paper signed!”

Now they tell us#12

Two weeks later, the next bombshell exploded: an sms from the Labour Department. My Application had been declined.

In order to resolve the issue I could only visit a Labour Department with my Case Number.

Bugger you,” I exclaimed, hasher in tone and stronger in message. “I will phone again”

So I phoned. One hour & twenty minutes later, I terminated the call.

Now they tell us#13

When I had recovered my composure, I phoned again. Sneakily I selected the wrong option. The consultant was nonplussed when I queried about an incorrect topic. I was then informed that the reason why I could not access this session was that I was using a Notebook and not a Computer.

I went ballistic. WHAT NUMBSKULLS. WHAT UTTER MORONS does the Labour Department employ?

Fortunately I curbed myself before it degenerated further

“What reason does your computer give for not paying?

“The problem lies with my previous employer’s UIF returns.”

Now they tell us#14

Then I had an epiphany. What happens if Efiling was not compatible with version 11 of Internet Explorer. I downgraded IE and suddenly my Notebook operated like a Computer.

But now I had to phone the salaries department of BWL to get the UIF returns issued resolved.

Will I ever get my UIF claim?

Who knows?

Let me not tell you about today’s issue with SARS.

Now they tell us#15

Guess what their response to my question was?

Please visit your local SARS office!

But that is a story for another day.

Preferably over a beer.

The beers will be on me!

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