Today's Labour News

newsThis news aggregator site highlights South African labour news from a wide range of internet and print sources. Each posting has a synopsis of the source article, together with a link or reference to the original. Postings cover the range of labour related matters from industrial relations to generalist human resources.

news shutterstockIn our afternoon roundup, see summaries
of our selection of South African labour-
related stories that appeared thus far on
Wednesday, 20 May 2020.


TOP STORY – CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

Gauteng premier tells legislature that up to 2-million jobs could be lost in province’s version of Great Depression

BusinessLive reports that according to Gauteng Premier David Makhura, the province will be moving to a less restrictive lockdown level at the beginning of June, which will provide much-needed relief from an unprecedented economic and human catastrophe.  Addressing a virtual sitting of the provincial legislature, Makhura said that Gauteng, which ordinarily contributes more than a third of the country’s GDP, could lose as many as 2-million jobs due to the Covid-19 national lockdown.  Nationally, the country is at level 4 and President Cyril Ramaphosa has signalled a relaxation to level 3 at the end of May, although he also indicated that regions could move at different speeds based on infection rates.  “Gauteng will be going to level 3 at the beginning of June,” Makhura stated.  He also emphasised that the province would move as a whole because the region was too integrated for a differential approach.  The economic effects of Covid-19 will be like that of the Great Depression almost a century ago, the premier warned.  He noted that the modeling done for the province had looked at the worst- and best-case scenarios in terms of job losses.  In the best-case scenario the province would lose almost 900,000 jobs, which could reach up to 2-million in the worst outcome.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Claudi Mailovich at BusinessLive

Construction industry only operating at 10% to 15% of capacity despite easing of restrictions

Engineering News reports that despite certain sections of the construction industry returning to work under Level 4 of the national Covid-19 lockdown, the industry is currently only working at between 10% and 15% of its capacity.  Construction on public projects, such as roads, water, sanitation, power, schools and hospitals, had been allowed to continue under Level 4, which kicked off on 1 May.  In terms of current planning, work on commercial buildings will only be able to restart at Level 3, with private residential projects having to wait until Level 2.  According to Industry Insight senior economist David Metelerkamp, many contractors did not go straight back to work on 1 May, with some taking two to three weeks to return, while yet others were still not yet back on site.  He reported that a survey showed that contractors were battling to obtain the correct permits to get back to work.  Another problem was that there was no single set of regulations managing the health and safety measures to be implemented at construction sites to contain the spread of Covid-19.  Metelerkamp commented:  “Even though a sizeable chunk of the industry can go back to work, this hasn’t really happened, and we are operating at a really low level.  This needs to speed up to a large degree if we want to see any sort of return to normality.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News

Denel unable to pay staff in May and wage payments for June and July will also be in jeopardy, as the arms manufacturer fights to save itself

BusinessLive reports that according to the CEO of Denel, Danie du Toit, the arms manufacturer will not be able to pay staff salaries for May, and wages for June and July are also in jeopardy.  “Our liquidity is under severe pressure and we have to implement drastic measures to save the company.  It is highly regrettable that we will not be able to pay salaries this month, but we have no other options,” CEO Danie du Toit announced.  Wages for June and July were “in serious jeopardy”, Du Toit also warned in a letter to staff.  This development comes shortly after the state-owned company missed deadlines to pay over employee pension, unemployment insurance and tax contributions.  Du Toit wrote that a successful turnaround would include cutting R1bn in costs and selling noncore assets with government approval.  He has asked the parastatal’s executives to take salary cuts for the rest of the year.  Solidarity, which represents about a third of Denel’s 3,000 employees, called for an end to the lockdown so the company’s orders for export could be completed.  “What we believe is that the lockdown should be eased as soon as possible.  Denel needs to finish its export orders, but they don’t have enough staff at work,” the trade union’s spokesperson Helgard Cronje said.”  About 51% of staff are not working at all under current lockdown restrictions.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Katharine Child at BusinessLive

With Denel unable to pay salaries, Solidarity calls for lockdown rules to end

EWN reports that with employees of Denel grappling with the news that the arms manufacturer cannot afford to pay salaries at the end of May, Solidarity has called for Covid-19 lockdown regulations to be terminated.  The trade union noted on Wednesday that businesses such as Denel were not generating income due to the lockdown, leading to workers losing out on their salaries.  The struggling state-owned company said the Covid-19 crisis had had a devastating impact on its performance, with existing liquidity challenges being exacerbated.  Solidarity’s sector coordinator for defence and aviation, Helgard Cronje, said:  “There is no need to make a choice between work and health; all businesses can open their doors and allow workers to start working without compromising their health.  Many people are losing income, and companies and businesses are suffering huge losses with catastrophic consequences for the economy.”  He went on to observe:  “The current lockdown regulations exacerbate the financial plight of companies, loss of workers’ income, and contribute to a full-blown social crisis in South Africa.  Companies must be allowed to do business and workers must be allowed to work without having to compromise their health.”  Solidarity represents about a third of Denel’s 3,000 employees

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Theto Mahlakoana at EWN

Schools set to open on 1 June in phased approach, starting with grades 12 and 7

BusinessLive reports that Department of Basic Education (DBE) Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Tuesday evening that schools across SA would open on 1 June in a phased manner, starting with grades 12 and 7.  Teachers will return to schools on 25 May.  The plan has been approved by cabinet and the national command council on Covid-19.  The phased reopening of schools is expected to see learners return in fortnightly intervals, descending through the grades in secondary and primary schools in tandem so that the youngest children return last.  A revised school calendar, setting out new term dates, will shortly be published in the government gazette.  The minister sent a strong signal that the government was willing to take a flexible approach to private, small and special needs schools, and was considering opening early childhood education centres sooner rather than later.  “We are engaging with private schools as a different sector with different challenges.  There will be a different approach depending on the circumstances,” Motshekga said during a television broadcast.  The minister has faced vocal public opposition from unions over plans to re-open schools, as many provincial education departments have yet to convince teachers that they will be returning to a safe working environment.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tamar Kahn at BusinessLive. Read too, Parents with Covid-19 anxieties can keep children away, says Motshekga, at Independent News. And also, KZN MEC warns they will be tough on schools that flout Covid-19 measures, at News24

Teacher unions and associations claim that Motshekga’s back to school plan lacks detail

News24 reports that the Department of Basic Education's (DBE’s) announcement on Tuesday that schools would reopen on 1 June when SA moves to Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown, left more questions than answers for teacher unions and associations.  Grade 7s and 12s will be the first to return in a phasing-in approach.  While DBE Minister Angie Motshekga has outlined measures to be put in place to ensure that pupils return to a safe environment, concerns have been raised as to whether the work on the ground will be done – and in due time.  Unions and associations involved in meetings with the DBE ahead of Tuesday's announcement expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of detail given by Motshekga and her officials at Tuesday’s briefing.  National Teachers Union (Natu) president Allen Thompson said they were concerned that Motshekga made no mention of how and when additional teachers would be recruited to assist with overcrowding.  Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (Saou) CEO Chris Klopper pointed out that the department gave no reasons why Grade 7 and 12 were the only pupils being phased in and there was little clarity on how small and special schools would be dealt with.  Basil Manuel of the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa) said they were not opposed to pupils returning but were concerned over whether provinces were ready.  He added that too little was said about how exactly social distancing would be carried out and how replacement teachers would be coordinated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sesona Ngqakamba at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Government may be seeing the light on need to open economy, says Cas Coovadia, at BusinessLive
  • One in three adults in SA goes to bed hungry, according to latest research on lockdown, at News24


HEALTH & SAFETY

Eastern Cape prison records 34 new Covid-19 infections, taking number of cases in SA prisons to 654

TimesLIVE reports that SA's prison system had recorded 34 new Covid-19 infections as of Tuesday.  Department of Correctional Services (DCS) spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo advised that the new cases were recorded at a facility in the Eastern Cape.  “Results of inmates who were tested at SADA in the Eastern Cape recorded an increase of 34 positive cases.  This is one of the areas receiving attention from the provincial department of health as Chris Hani District has been classified as one of the epicentres in the Eastern Cape,” Nxumalo indicated.  The new infections took the total number of infections in prisons to a staggering 654 — made up of 199 officials and 455 inmates with the virus.  Nxumalo said recoveries across the country’s correctional facilities stood at 123.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nonkululeko Njilo at TimesLIVE

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • SA faces up to 48,000 Covid-19 deaths by November, at BusinessLive


MINING LABOUR

Covid-19 prevention and management programmes must be established at mines using guideline gazetted on Tuesday

Mining Weekly reports that Covid-19 prevention, mitigation and management programmes must be established at mines using a guideline gazetted by Chief Inspector of Mines David Msiza on Tuesday.  The guideline provides minimum requirements for the compilation of a code of practice (COP) to prevent and manage a Covid-19 outbreak.  The aim, the gazette notice points out, is to ensure that returning mine employees are protected from transmission of the virus in the workplace and, where reasonably practicable, in the community.  Failure by the employer to prepare and implement the mine’s COP in line with the guideline will constitute a criminal offence.  The startup procedures outlined include disinfecting vehicles, change houses, lamp rooms, refuge bays, offices, accommodation, guard houses, food areas and screening centres.  Dedicated 24-hour hotlines must be provided to allow employees to reach the mine’s dedicated healthcare workers.  Employees returning from Covid-19 epicentres must be quarantined for 14 days before they return to work.  Infection prevention and control measures must be applied when employees arrive at mine premises, with hand hygiene practices being included in underground work places.  Employees with elevated temperatures must be referred for further assessment, with all employees being screened daily and pre-shift screening including temperature checks.  Physical distancing of between one metre and two metres must be applied and relevant PPE provided for mass transport.  A system must be put in place to screen non-employees entering mine premises.  

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly. Read too, Mandatory code of Covid mining practice gazetted, at Mining Weekly

Government wants mining industry to quarantine workers from epicentres of the Covid-19 pandemic

Business Report writes that the government has encouraged the mining industry to quarantine mine workers from epicentres of the Covid-19 pandemic in a bid to curb infections in communities.  Chief inspector of mines David Msiza told the parliamentary portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy on Tuesday that the provisions in regulations that were published by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) required employees from areas with high cases of the pandemic to be quarantined for 14 days before they returned to work.  “The regulations that were gazetted in terms of the Disaster Management Act also require mines to have quarantine facilities.  Some of the mines have quarantined some of the people who were found to have Covid19,” Msiza indicated, adding that mines had complied with regulations.  He also said that they had been making unannounced visits to the mines and, generally, “we have seen that the sector has protocols in place.”  Mine Health and Safety Council CE Thabo Dube told the committee that there were 41 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the industry.  Giving data from the Minerals Council SA, Dube said around 168,000 mineworkers had been screened and 1,466 had been tested.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Dineo Faku on page 10 of Business Report of 20 May 2020

NUM wants government to temporarily close all mines in Limpopo due to Covid-19 positive cases

Mining Weekly reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) North East Region branch, in Limpopo, has called for a temporary closure of all mines in the province.  The union nonetheless wants mining companies to still pay their workers in full.  The closure call followed on two mines near Burgersfort recording a number of positive Covid-19 cases.  The first mine to report positive cases of the virus was Impala Platinum’s Marula mine, with 19 cases confirmed at the weekend.  The second mine was Assore’s Dwarsriver chrome mine, which reported 30 positive Covid-19 cases on 19 May.  According to the union, African Rainbow Minerals’ Modikwa platinum mine has also recorded one case of Covid-19.  “[The] NUM is not in favour of the blanket approach that has been granted by the Mineral Resources and Energy Minister.  We argue that each mine should have been given a directive to put measures in place first and be granted permission to restart only when all measures are in place," said NUM North East regional secretary Phillip Mankge.  The NUM has also called for the Limpopo authorities to review the lockdown status of the Fetakgomo Tubatse municipality and to return it to Level 5.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly. Read too, NUM calls for Limpopo mine closures but Implats says there is no Covid-19 outbreak, at TimesLIVE

Other general posting(s) relating to mining

  • Sibanye-Stillwater to hold AGM electronically, at Mining Weekly


BUSINESS RESCUE

Comair’s business rescue plan, with a reasonable chance of success, expected to be published by 9 June

BusinessLive reports that the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) for Comair expect to publish a rescue plan in three weeks and say there is a reasonable chance of rescuing the airline given its asset base and its importance in terms of SA’s travel infrastructure.  It entered business rescue on 5 May and appointed Shaun Collyer and Richard Ferguson as joint BRPs.  They held their first formal meeting with creditors and employees on Tuesday.  The business rescue plan will probably be published on June 9, and a shareholder vote to approve it will take place on 24 June.  The BRPs noted that Comair had assets of R7.42bn on its balance sheet compared with liabilities of R5.48bn, and was not insolvent.  It was, however, financially distressed because there was insufficient cash to pay ongoing costs and obligations and, with its flights grounded for an uncertain period, no opportunity to generate revenue.  The BRPs will oversee the restructuring of the company to see if it can survive or if assets should be auctioned off to pay out creditors.  The next step in the process is the formation of a creditors’ committee and an employee representatives’ committee.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Karl Gernetzky at BusinessLive

Business rescuers assess that there is a reasonable prospect that Edcon can be saved

BL Premium reports that Edcon, SA’s biggest corporate causality of Covid-19-induced economic distress, may still be saved according to its business rescue practitioners (BRPs).  Like other retailers, Edcon was forced to shut its stores after the government suspended all non-essential shopping.  But with a weak balance sheet, it was forced to file for business rescue two weeks ago.  “It is the view of the BRPs that, notwithstanding inevitable risks and challenges, there is a reasonable prospect of rescuing the company,” the BRPs Piers Marsden and Lance Schapiro told creditors this week.  That assessment paves the way for them to devise a plan to save the retailer, which employs 17,500 permanent workers and 5,000 seasonal workers.  Creditors such as the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which manages the pension investments of public servants, are due to meet again in mid-June to consider and vote on whether a business rescue plan is the best way to recoup their investments.  “We believe that the business rescue process will achieve a better outcome for all stakeholders than a liquidation,” the BRPs indicated.  They have suggested that a creditors’ committee be set up to enhance the process.  Committees should also be set up for employees, landlords and lenders to “assist in achieving the goals set out in the business rescue plan”.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Alistair Anderson at BusinessLive (paywall access only)

Labour Court ruling on SAA retrenchments ‘wrong’, business rescuers argue in appeal application

Moneyweb reports that the court battle between trade unions and the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) tasked with turning SA Airways (SAA) around could have serious implications for future business rescue proceedings generally.  This after the Labour Court ruled that employees could not be laid off in the absence of a rescue plan.  The ruling is, however, being challenged.  In their submission for leave to appeal the ruling, BRPs Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana argue that the court’s interpretation of Section 136 of the Companies Act related to the responsibilities that BRPs have to employees during a business rescue is wrong.  The pair contend that the court in fact provided employees with more rights than is legally permissible, and in turn undermined the rights of the employer, in this case SAA.  “Prior to business rescue, the employees of a company were at risk of a fair dismissal for operational requirements.  Under the interpretation of Section 136 provided by the judgment, the employees are better off than before business rescue commenced,” the BRPs indicated in court papers submitted to the Labour Appeals Court on 15 May.  In their argument for leave to appeal, the BRPs state that preventing a financially-distressed company from reorganising the business pending the finalisation of a rescue plan will have “unintended deleterious consequences for business rescue which are disproportionate to the temporary protection of employees.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tebogo Tshwane at Moneyweb


WORKPLACE CORRUPTION / CRIME

Ekurhuleni officer and accomplice arrested after armed hijacking of a truck carrying masks

TimesLIVE reports that an Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (EMPD) officer and an accomplice have appeared in court charged with robbing a truck that was transporting masks.  The Kempton Park officer and the other man appeared at the Boksburg Magistrate's Court on Monday on charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, two counts of kidnapping, possession of an unlicensed firearm and defeating the ends of justice.  An NPA spokesperson indicated that on 14 May the officer, who was driving an official EMPD vehicle, stopped the truck.  He instructed the driver to alight, pointed a firearm at him and forced him into another vehicle that was parked behind the EMPD vehicle, driven by the other accused.  Two further suspects alighted from the EMPD vehicle and assisted in the robbery.  The suspects drove off in different directions, using both vehicles, while one of them drove the truck.  Police witnessed the incident and the EMPD officer was apprehended after a chase in which he jumped out of the car while it was still in motion and bumped a truck that was stationary at a robot.  .  The case has been postponed to 28 May for a formal bail application.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nomahlubi Jordaan at TimesLIVE

 


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