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
Thursday, 21 May 2020.


TOP STORY – CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

Survey of principals by teacher unions shows schools won't be ready on 1 June

TimesLIVE reports that a survey by unions representing teachers has found that the country is not ready to resume teaching on 1 June.  The information was gathered through engagement with school principals across the country between 16 and 18 May.  Based on the data collected around the deep cleaning of schools, direct communication with schools on a district level and the supply or availability of water, the unions are not confident that the country will be ready on time.  Naptosa, Peu, Natu, Sadtu and Saou collaborated to conduct the survey following Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s announcement that matric and grade 7 pupils would return to class from 1 June and the rest of the school year would be gazetted “soon”.  But, Naptosa’s Basil Manuel said not much had been done to curb the spread of Covid-19 in schools in line with requirements.  “We don’t think we will be ready by Monday.  We wish to make it clear that if PPEs had not arrived at schools and the required cleaning had not taken place when teachers return on Monday, they are not to endanger their lives by entering such schools.”  According to the survey, which sampled 9,365 schools, the plan to assure the safety of workers, pupils and parents was shrouded in “vagueness” on the part of the government.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Kgaugelo Masweneng at TimesLIVE. Read too, Sadtu, teachers in rural areas concerned about EC's readiness to reopen schools, at News24

Solidarity members at ArcelorMittal show up for work in protest against lockdown regulations that prevent work

Solidarity reports that its members showed up for work at ArcelorMittal in Vanderbijlpark on Thursday in protest against the lockdown regulations that have prevented hundreds of thousands of people from working.  This came after the trade union asked thousands of workers across the country to put pressure on the government so that all companies that could work healthily could open.  “The level of job losses and the crisis developing as a result of people who only receive a portion of their salaries are of such a magnitude that Solidarity members across South Africa said they will start reporting for work at their workplaces,” Solidarity’s CE Dr Dirk Hermann indicated.  The workers turned up at the steel plant with protective masks, hand sanitisers and comprehensive suggestions for undertaking work in a healthy way.  According to Hermann, decisions taken at central level have resulted in companies being forced to close, depriving them of the opportunity to put their own creative plans in place to work without compromising their health.  “We are not making a choice between health and work; we are opting for working in a healthy way,” Hermann pointed out.

Read Solidarity’s press statement in the above regard at Polity

More are losing their jobs due to Covid-19 lockdown, says TransUnion

BusinessLive reports that according to TransUnion, considered SA’s largest credit bureau, many people are losing their jobs or experiencing a reduction in work hours as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown.  The company’s latest research into the economic effects of the pandemic, released on Thursday, reveals that the number of people losing their jobs increased from one in 10 in April to one in six in early May.  In addition, nearly four out of 10 (37%) of those negatively affected said they have seen their work hours reduced because of the pandemic — up from the 32% reported in the first week of April.  “The pandemic is creating major economic and financial distress for consumers, with many jobs in the SA economy already being impacted or at risk due to drastic demand shifts,” said Lee Naik, CEO of TransUnion Africa.  The data suggests consumers are going to battle to meet their financial obligations, with the expected shortfall in the near future rising from R500 in April to R7,500 in May.  Nearly two thirds (64%) of consumers reported that household budget changes during the pandemic have involved cutting back on discretionary spending, which has extended to items such as subscriptions, memberships and digital services.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Warren Thompson at BusinessLive

If submitted correctly, UIF-Ters benefit is paid out in 24 hours

Moneyweb reports that the government-initiated Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) is now paying out a day or two after the lodging of a successful claim.  Ters provides emergency relief for employers to claim benefits on behalf of their employees during the Covid-19 lockdown.  This is to avoid employees losing income or being placed on annual leave as a result of the temporary closure of their employer’s operations.  The scheme is administered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).  The main frustration for employers claiming benefits under the scheme relates to the constant changes to the system, system errors and only some employees getting paid despite their companies having gone through the same application process and submitting the same documents for their employees.  UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping said several issues with the application and processing of Ters have been resolved, but many challenges remain.  “Our commitment is to improve all the time and to pay back the trust that has been placed in us as a public insurance fund,” Maruping promised.  So far, the Department of Employment and Labour has paid 2,551,236 workers, bringing the total value disbursed since 16 April to over R14 billion.  “We are now more confident in saying that we are on track to achieve our vision of a caring, accessible and customer-centric UIF that contributes towards poverty alleviation,” Maruping stated.

Read the full original of the informative report in the above regard by Melitta Ngalonkulu at Moneyweb

Migrants and those without IDs face hunger in South Africa

Reuters writes that South Africa has marshalled huge resources towards preventing its poor from starving due to the Covid-19 lockdown, but according to aid workers undocumented citizens and stranded migrants face hunger because they slip through the net.  Some 11,000 families waited for charity food parcels on Wednesday in a queue stretching for several kilometres outside Pretoria.  Aid workers estimated more than half of those waiting for a third distribution this month were migrants.  The government has set aside R50 billion for social grants for the poor, but to claim a grant or food parcel a person needs a national ID card – which migrants aren’t entitled to and many South Africans from poor areas have failed to obtain.  “We saw about the money that they are going to send to the South Africans, but as foreign nationals who is going to provide for us?” lamented Peter Ndhlovu, an out-of-work Zimbabwean migrant casual labourer, as he queued.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siyabonga Sishi and Tim Cocks at Moneyweb

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • This is how shrinking income during lockdown is affecting South Africans, at BusinessLive


HEALTH & SAFETY

Gauteng labour officials in isolation after occupational health and safety inspector tested positive for Covid-19

The Star reports that Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) officials are self-isolating after an occupational health and safety inspector at their provincial office in Gauteng tested positive for Covid-19.  In addition, the relevant office will be disinfected and deep cleaned.  The inspector is the second DEL employee to have been infected with the virus, following an employee from the Compensation Fund in Pretoria having tested positive at the beginning of the month.  The inspector self-reported after undergoing medical tests following a consultation with a medical practitioner who advised him to have more tests done in view of his flu-like symptoms.  DEL director-general Thobile Lamati commented:  “We are urging our officials to proceed with extreme care.  The possible further easing of restrictions calls on the department to play a critical role in monitoring workplaces, and we will continue discharging our duties diligently while also ensuring that our officials are shielded from the virus.”  Meanwhile, the Botha Sigcau Building in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape was closed on Tuesday after two Department of Health officials tested positive for Covid-19.  The building will be closed until testing and disinfecting are concluded.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Boitumelo Metsing at The Star

Mpumalanga clinic in Nkomazi temporarily closed after positive Covid-19 test

Lowvelder reports that the Mpumalanga Department of Health has announced that Driekoppies Clinic in Nkomazi has been temporarily closed.  The decision was made after one of the clinic’s staff members tested positive for Covid-19.  Due to the other staff members being in contact with the infected individual they have all been quarantined.  According to the department, a tracing team is currently working to trace all clinic patients who were in direct contact with the Covid-19-positive staff member.  The clinic will be disinfected and will remain closed pending the outcome of test results.  It has been arranged for a mobile clinic to provide healthcare services to the community for the period that the clinic will be closed.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Danell Watts at The Citizen

Post Office denies CWU’s claim of noncompliance with Covid-19 rules

BusinessLive reports that the SA Post Office (Sapo) has refuted allegations by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) that it has breached Covid-19 occupational health and safety regulations by failing to screen workers and deep clean its workplaces.  One employee at Sapo’s regional office in Bloemfontein has tested positive for Covid-19.  Thabo Lekota, the CWU’s Free State secretary, said they were concerned that the building the employee was working in was “never deep cleaned in accordance with the usual procedures applicable under Covid-19”.  He said:  “The failure of Sapo to properly clean and sanitise its workplaces is a serious risk to its employees and by extension to members of the public and Sassa beneficiaries.”  Lekota said if the employer did not rectify those issues, the union would advise its members to refrain from work.  But, Sapo’s operations division refuted the allegation that an employee had contracted Covid-19 at the workplace.  It did, however, admit that there was an incident in the Bloemfontein regional office where an employee in the finance division tested positive in March after attending a church service.  “All staff in this regional office were subsequently screened and the workplace was deep cleaned and cleared to resume operations by health authorities. The employee has since recovered,” Sapo stated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Luyolo Mkentane at BusinessLive

Twenty-one Eskom employees have caught Covid-19, but load shedding risk now dramatically down because of the lockdown

The Citizen reports that Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter confirmed on Thursday that 21 of the company’s employees and contractors had tested positive for Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape.  During a virtual media briefing on the “state of the system”, De Ruyter said those who had tested positive for the virus were receiving the best treatment possible.  In addition, the state-owned power utility said there would be only an 80% chance of just three days of load shedding over the winter.  Thirty days were predicted earlier in the year, with the improvement a result of the utility being given an opportunity to do short-term maintenance due to the huge slowdown in the economy brought about by the coronavirus lockdown.  The CEO covered a number of challenges faced by the power utility.  Regarding the Covid-19 measures taken by Eskom, De Ruyter said the utility had put in place contingency plans for its facilities in order to ensure they could operate under a variety of different scenarios.  “We have made available the Eskom Academy of Learning in Midrand to the department of health to be used as a quarantine facility.  We have been producing hand sanitisers, assisting in the development of ventilators and manufacturing of masks,” he added.

Read the full original of the informative report in the above regard by Molefe Seeletsa at The Citizen

Western Cape starts rationing Covid-19 tests to prioritise high-risk groups such as health-care workers

BusinessLive reports that it emerged on Wednesday that the Western Cape health department is changing its Covid-19 testing strategy, and will now prioritise high-risk groups such as health-care workers and people in old age homes.  The move to ration testing follows growing delays at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), which has been unable to keep up with demand as SA’s Covid-19 epidemic deepens.  The Western Cape, which has more than 60% of SA’s reported cases, sounded the alarm over NHLS delays a fortnight ago, saying at the time that long turnaround times were hampering its capacity to manage critically ill patients.  Two top scientists have furthermore advised the government to scrap community screening and testing and conserve tests and laboratory resources for key groups to ensure maximum impact.  Tests needed to be used “sparingly and appropriately”, Western Cape head of health Keith Cloete indicated.  The department has worked with the NHLS to ensure health-care workers now receive test results within 24 hours, and hospitalised patients within three days.  Other groups of people still have to wait on average seven to eight days for their results, but some have waited for as long as 12 days.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tamar Kahn at BusinessLive

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • How one Covid-19 case at St Augustine’s Hospital led to 135 infections within 51 days, at News24
  • SA faces ‘significant constraints’ with Covid-19 test kits, at The Citizen
  • Military joins testing and screening drive, at SowetanLive
  • Judge Edwin Cameron condemns incarceration of Covid-19 remand detainees, at BusinessLive


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

Case opened against striking staff members at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital in Gauteng

The Citizen reports that the Gauteng Department of Health has expressed its dismay at the actions of a group of staff members at the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital who briefly disrupted services on Tuesday.  In a statement, the department noted that the strike was illegal and ignored the current lockdown regulations which prohibited public gatherings.  It also stated that the service disruption affected various areas of the facility, “including the usual multi-disciplinary teams’ morning visits to patients, which could not be undertaken as employees were locked outside the facility.”  Apparently, union members did not raise any of their concerns with management prior to the strike.  But, concerns allegedly raised by some staff members were lack of social distancing and that hospital management had kept information about Covid-19 infections from them.  The department confirmed that one staff member at the hospital had tested positive for the virus.  The hospital management has since opened a case against those involved in the strike “for locking the gate and denying staff to serve patients and for damage to property after a doctor’s car was damaged.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at The Citizen


MINING LABOUR

Two employees at Harmony’s Kalgold mine in North West test positive for Covid-19

Mining Weekly reports that two employees at Harmony Gold Mining Company’s Kalgold gold mine, in the North West, have tested positive for Covid-19.  The individuals, both of whom were asymptomatic, were identified as positive through the company’s testing process, which is conducted in collaboration with the Department of Health.  Both individuals have been isolated and are receiving medical care.  The process of tracing possible contacts is under way, with all of those identified either self-quarantining or quarantining at a company facility for 14 days.  In a statement on 20 May, Harmony confirmed that its routine screening and testing at the mine would continue in line with its Covid-19 standard operating procedure.  The majority of Kalgold’s 600 employees have so far been tested for the virus.  Mining at Kalgold has largely been suspended, but the plant continues to operate and employees who have tested negative for Covid-19 have returned to work.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly

NUM concerned about rising positive Covid-19 cases in mines and how Eskom is treating cases

Mining Weekly reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is concerned about the rising number of Covid-19-positive cases in the mining industry, especially in Limpopo, and at power utility Eskom's operations.  According to the union, some mines in Limpopo have become hotspots, where the virus was spreading at an “alarming rate”.  The first mine to have reported positive Covid-19 cases was the Marula platinum mine, with 19 confirmed cases.  The second was the Dwarsrivier chrome mine, which presently has 30 confirmed cases.  The NUM is also displeased with the criteria used to call employees back to work in terms of a decision allowing mines to operate at 50% and is worried about the negative impact that Covid-19 will have in mining communities.  According to the union, it is “clear that mining companies are not complying with Covid-19 regulations”.  It says that the regulatory department must “deal harshly” with such companies.  The union called on its members to refuse to work in mines and operations where necessary measures were not in place to protect them from the virus.  With reference to Eskom, the NUM noted that a total of 20 Covid-19 cases have been reported nationally, with the majority – 14 – in the Western Cape.  Expressing its concern about how Eskom was treating positive cases, the NUM said it was still waiting for the Department of Health to investigate whether the Koeberg power station had followed the correct regulations when dealing with Covid-19 cases.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly

Gazetted Covid-19 guideline for mining restates much of what industry has already adopted

Mining Weekly writes that the newly gazetted guideline to prevent, mitigate and manage the Covid-19 pandemic on mines is largely a restatement of what has already been adopted by the mining industry.  Most of the requirements of the code of practice (COP) mandated in the gazette already form part of the standard operating procedures (SOP) of the 77-member Minerals Council SA (previously called the Chamber of Mines).  The gazetted COP and the mining industry’s SOP are thus largely aligned.  But, ENSafrica mine and occupational safety executive consultant Willem le Roux expressed the view that two of the guideline’s stipulations presented misinterpretation possibilities.  One of these is the requirement under paragraph 8.3.1.1, which states in considering management of Covid-19 infection transmission, the employer must consider ensuring that employees returning from areas regarded as Covid-19 epicentres are quarantined for 14 days before they return to work.  Le Roux commented:  “On the face of it, it’s very rigid but we must keep in mind that it states that the employer must consider it. So, it’s not that the employer must apply it in each and every instance.  My further problem is that it is not clear what an epicentre of Covid-19 is. When you look at the media and the Department of Health, they refer to epicentres of Covid-19 as any place where Covid-19 has been contracted.”  He urged that a flexible approach be adopted to 8.3.1.1:  “If you must quarantine a person and there's not sufficient space to do so, the person must be given the opportunity to self-isolate for 14 days or go home.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly


CORRUPTION / CRIME

Revenue manager at Ntabankulu municipality in Eastern Cape allegedly stole R90,000 from the municipal kitty

News24 reports that a senior manager in the Ntabankulu Municipality in the Eastern Cape is facing a charge of theft after she allegedly stole R90,000 from the municipal kitty.  Ntabankulu mayor Tsileng Sobuthongo advised that the revenue manager had been served with an intent to suspend.  Sobuthongo said the money had been stolen in small amounts from October 2019.  The manager has apparently admitted to stealing the money and has apologised.  The municipality is one of the Eastern Cape's rural towns that relies on government grant funding.  Most of its revenue is from waste collection and traffic fines.  DA chairperson in the Alfred Nzo district, Wonga Potwana, claimed there was an agreement with the CFO for the revenue manager to repay the money in instalments, but that has been strongly denied by the mayor.  Potwana commented:  "The municipality, through the mayor, must open a case and, with the evidence in hand, she must be expelled and recoup the municipality monies."

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lizeka Tandwa at News24

 


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