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, 24 June 2020.


HEALTH & SAFETY

Parents furious after more than 200 learners and staff test positive for Covid-19 at Eastern Cape boarding school

The Star reports that furious parents have slammed the management of Makaula Senior Secondary School for failing to protect their children after more than 200 learners and workers at the renowned boarding school tested positive for Covid-19.  The parents were shocked to learn that 172 Grade 12 learners and 32 staff members at the KwaBhaca (formerly Mount Frere) school had tested positive for the virus.  On Tuesday, angry parents rushed to pick up their children while health officials scrambled to deal with the outbreak.  Parents complained that their children were taken to hospital after falling sick – without them being informed.  Some blamed the school for “quickly rushing” to reopen without ensuring that all protective measures against the disease were in place.  According to parents, the school reopened on 1 June, even though education authorities had announced that the actual reopening date was 8 June.  This week, learners held a protest at the school, demanding to be released to their families.  One concerned parent said the school management needed to be held accountable and went on to say:  “They kept this a secret at the expense of the health care of our children.  The school was supposed to have immediately shut down last week but it continued until a protest by our children this week.”  On Tuesday, an Eastern Cape health department spokesperson advised that they had deployed a team of doctors and tracers to the school.  He said 63 teachers at the school had also been tested and were still awaiting results.  Chris Mdingi of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union lashed out at the province’s education department for not prioritising the health care of teachers and learners in the region.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sithandiwe Velaphi on page 1 of The Star of 24 June 2020

Two Amakhosi players in quarantine for 14 days with Covid-19

BusinessLive reports that two unnamed Kaizer Chiefs players have tested positive for Covid-19 and will immediately go into quarantine for 14 days.  The soccer club said the test results came back positive after a series of Covid-19 tests conducted last Friday as players prepared for the expected return to non-contact training.  Chiefs indicated:  “A total of 70 individuals‚ including players‚ members of the technical team and other club officials were tested for Covid-19 in preparation for the restart of the 2019/2020 season.”  All the players and officials were given different time slots and did not come into contact with each other.  So far‚ Ben Motshwari of Orlando Pirates and Given Mashikinya of Bloemfontein Celtic are the two players who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the Premier Soccer League.  Stellenbosch FC has reported that three staff members have tested positive and were receiving treatment.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mahlatse Mphahlele at BusinessLive

Player health top priority for Safa

The Star reports that SA Football Association (Safa) chief medical officer Dr Thulani Ngwenya has been appointed as national football’s Covid-19 compliance officer.  The appointment was made over the weekend by the National Executive Committee.  Ngwenya, who is also the Bafana Bafana team doctor, will hold down the position for the rest of the season.  He commented:  “It is a huge responsibility because the staging of matches will require observing government protocols around the coronavirus pandemic.  By this time the clubs have been supplied with information regarding their role and responsibility.  They will be required to adhere to the letter of the regulations.  The health of players and team support staff is of paramount importance.”  Ngwenya went on to indicate:  “We cannot fall foul of protocols.  Match officials have also been schooled in protocols, so everyone at venues that are connected to football will be au fait with what the regulations are.  We want to be observant to the letter of the law at all times.”  The Confederation of African Football this week issued circulars to member countries advising of developments around the spread and control of Covid-19.  Ngwenya has been participating in Caf’s medical committee meetings over the past few weeks.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Herman Gibbs on page 15 of The Star of 24 June 2020

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Staff of Fidelity Security fear for their lives after alleged cover-up of Covid-19 cases at work, at The Star
  • Gauteng indigents dealt a blow as Covid-19 shuts food distribution centre in City Deep, at The Star


LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS

Solidarity’s case to get private nursery schools on reopened postponed until next Tuesday

News24 Wire reports that a court application by trade union Solidarity against the Department of Social Development regarding the reopening of private nursery schools has been postponed until next Tuesday.  The trade union’s Occupational Guild for Social Workers and its School Support Centre (SCC) lodged the case.  The judge in the matter apparently ordered the case to be postponed to consider previous rulings on the reopening of schools during Covid-19.  While dates for the reopening of public nursery schools have been announced by the education department, private nursery schools and day-cares were not included.  According to the Guild’s Marisa Engelbrecht, delays in reopening nursery schools could negatively impact children.  She said:  “Many children in departmental nursery schools will, one of these days, return to school while thousands of other children in private nursery schools are deprived of this basic human right by government.  Furthermore, parents are concerned for they have no place to leave their children while they themselves must return to work.  There are also many children exposed to domestic violence at home and for many children the meal they received at school was their only meal of the day.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at The Citizen. Read too, Nursery schools allowed to reopen, but just for staff, on page 7 of Sowetan of 23 June 2020


COVID-19 RELIEF FUNDS

UIF’s admin crisis deepens as pensioner is paid R4.7m meant for 1,000 of his former colleagues

SowetanLive reports that a retired bus driver was paid a R4.7m in Covid-19 relief funds meant for 1,000 of his former colleagues.  The 65-year-old man, from Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, retired from Unitrans in December.  The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), which administers Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief scheme (Ters) payments to employers on behalf of employees, failed to explain how the money ended up in the individual's account when it was intended to be paid to a company.  The pensioner apparently thought the windfall was from the decades-long contributions to UIF during his working years.  The money was deposited into his bank account on 25 April as part of UIF payment for major bus operator Mega Coach, owned by Unitrans.  When the erroneous deposit was picked up following Mega Coach's enquiries with UIF over its application, the pensioner had already spent at least R100,000 of it.  When the UIF tracked him down, it was able to recover R4.6m.  This was the second such case where relief funds meant for workers were paid into individuals' accounts. The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the Asset Forfeiture Unit had frozen 28 accounts after R5.6m meant for 200 employees was deposited in a bank account of one man.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Isaac Mahlangu at SowetanLive

Ladysmith security firm allegedly claimed Ters benefit, but staff say they haven’t seen a cent

Ladysmith Gazette reports that security guards and personnel at a Ladysmith security company are fuming because they say their employer allegedly claimed Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) funds using their details, yet they haven’t seen a cent of the money.  One guard pointed out that they have not taken any leave from work during the Covid-19 lockdown because they were considered to be essential workers.  According to the guard, they all received full salaries, so there was no reason for their employer to claim relief funds on their behalf.  “Our employer used our personal information to claim UIF. We checked our UIF status online and it said we were supposed to get the money, but our employer has never given us the cash. When we asked him about this, he said he had reversed the money,” he said.  Department of Employment and Labour provincial communications officer Nhlanhla Khumalo pointed out that if this was indeed the case, then the employer had committed fraud.  He said the UIF was embarking on a thorough investigation of such cases.

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


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

State and stakeholders to prioritise struggling sugar industry, Ebrahim Patel tells MPs

BusinessLive reports that the government is moving to boost the struggling sugar industry and putting in place measures to ensure it is designated a priority supplier in SA.  The local sugar industry generates an income of about R14bn a year and is responsible for at least 350,000 jobs.  However, it has been on the brink of collapse in recent times due to several headwinds, including a drop in sales volumes, partly due to the sugar tax, falling prices and stiff competition from cheap imports mainly from Brazil.  In parliament on Tuesday, Department of Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said the industry master plan would soon be gazetted, giving effect to some of the proposed measures to stabilise the sector.  The plan will focus on growing and transforming the sector.  Noting that demand was shrinking because of decline in consumption, Patel indicated that government and key industry stakeholders had looked at the opportunities and other uses for sugar, such as bio-fuels and bio-plastics.  He pointed out that the crisis in the sector started before Covid-19.  The DA’s Dean Macpherson claimed that the challenges facing the sector largely had to do with the sugar tax introduced in April, which government “refuses” to scrap. 

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bekezela Phakathi at BusinessLive


RETRENCHMENTS / JOB LOSSES

Job losses and site closures due to Covid-19 lockdown hit retail motor sector

Moneyweb reports that automotive group Motus is in the process of reducing the size of its workforce by about 2,000 people through an early retirement and retrenchment process that will cost the company between R120 million and R140 million.  This is among the actions it is taking to reduce the negative impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown on the group’s operations and mitigate the business risk.  Motus CEO Osman Arbee said on Tuesday the bulk of affected people were in the company’s car retail and car rental businesses.  Arbee also indicated that Motus had reduced the size of its car rental fleet by 7,000 vehicles, and had closed 20 of its 100 car rental sites.  The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has also forced Combined Motor Holdings (CMH), where the car hire segment presents the group’s highest risk exposure, to take drastic action.  CEO Jebb McIntosh reported on Tuesday that the staff complement had been reduced by 15% and a further 15-20% reduction was anticipated over the coming months.  McIntosh commented:  “There will, no doubt, be many business casualties as a result of the trading disruption caused by the lockdown.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Roy Cokayne at Moneyweb

Sun International to cut about 1,800 staff members and sell properties due to Covid-19

BusinessLive reports that hotels and gaming group Sun International (SI) intends to cut about 1,800 staff at its hotels and sell land as it braces for a slow recovery in the wake of Covid-19.  The group is scrambling for cash after the virus shuttered its hotels and casinos in SA and Latin America.  While the group is gearing up to resume operations in SA under level 3, regulations setting out the conditions under which it could operate have yet to be published.  The group expects alcohol sales to remain restricted and is prepared to switch off every second slot machine to ensure social distancing.  It is planning significant restructuring of its hotels and resorts in anticipation that they will be under pressure for some time.  In a business update, the group said it had reduced salaries and working hours, and would cut 1,183 staff at Sun City, while cutting hundreds of staff at its other hotels.  SI employed 14,706 staff across the group as at the end of 2019.  “Although trading conditions are going to be challenging, we are confident that, with the appropriate level of support from shareholders and lenders, the company can trade through this crisis,” the group stated.

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


LIQUIDATIONS

Gordhan vows to try to find funds for SA Express employees who haven’t been paid since March

BusinessLive reports that Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Tuesday that the government would try to find funds to assist desperate employees of bankrupt, state-owned SA Express who have not been paid for several months.  But he told MPs that given the fiscal constraints faced by the state, money was difficult to access.  SA Express, which owes creditors more than R2bn, was placed under provisional liquidation on 29 April after its business rescue practitioners indicated that it had no prospect of survival.  The airline’s employees, whose contracts of employment have been suspended, have not been paid for March, April and May, apart from some payments under the Ters relief fund.  MPs were recently told by the provisional liquidator that there was no guarantee that the 691 employees would receive retrenchment pay as this would have to be paid out of the residual proceeds after the sale and creditors had claims against the company of R900m.  The workers engaged in a protest at the offices of the DPE to demand government assistance in the payment of salaries and severance packages.  Gordhan said his department would explore what further assistance could be provided to the workers, with the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Linda Ensor at BusinessLive


MINING LABOUR

Optimum Coal’s business rescuers in talks with a major creditor

BusinessLive reports that Bouwer van Niekerk, lawyer for Optimum Coal’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs), told MPs on Tuesday that there are three bids on the table for the colliery, but the difficulty lay with funding the ramp-up of the mine.  “Optimum is a big mine.  It requires a lot of money to ramp up.  In the current market there are very limited players who have the capital to acquire an asset of this size, especially if you need to ramp it up.  Covid-19 has made it more problematic,” he stated.  The BRPs are thus looking to kick-start the mine themselves and are now in talks with a major creditor, Centaur Ventures, which could convert a large portion of its debt into equity in Optimum and potentially inject funds into the business to aid its restart.  Owned by the Gupta family’s Tegeta Resources, Optimum went into business rescue in February 2018.  The mine was unable to pay salaries in November 2018, and in April 2019 retrenched the workforce.  The mine is not operational and is on care and maintenance.  Van Niekerk advised that Koornfontein, another Tegeta-owned coal mine put into rescue with Optimum in 2018, had recently been sold and the transfer of mining rights was underway.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lisa Steyn at BusinessLive

New business rescue plan proposed as dispute over Lily, Barbrook mines continues

Mining Weekly reports that Vantage Goldfields Limited (VGL) and Siyakhula Sonke Empowerment Corporation’s (SSC’s) Fred Arendse have proposed an amended business rescue plan for the Lily gold mine, in Mpumalanga.  The Lily and Barbrook mines have been the subject of a dispute after the operations were placed under business rescue following the Lily mine’s collapse in February 2016, during which three mineworkers who were trapped in a container underground.  Business rescue practitioners (BRPs) were appointed in April 2016, following which Barbrook in December 2016 filed for business rescue as it was also financially distressed.  In November 2017, Vantage Goldfields SA (VGSA) agreed to sell the Lily and Barbrook mines to SSC subsidiary Flaming Silver on the condition that it provided R310-million to discharge business rescue plan requirements and reopen the mines.  But parties have, so far, been unable to resolve a dispute related to the business rescue.  MPs were told on Tuesday about the amended business rescue plan in terms of which VGL will sell its R194-million loan account against Barbrook to Arqomanzi in return for Arqomanzi settling VGL’s secured creditors and the BRP’s fees.  Upon approval of the plans, it is intended that a start will immediately be made with the development of a new decline at the Lily mine, while a feasibility study on Barbrook will be proceeded with.

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


PRICES

April’s consumer inflation rate of 3% lowest since June 2005

BusinessLive reports that consumer price inflation slowed to its lowest level in almost 15 years in April, as SA went into its most severe period of lockdown restrictions when only essential goods and services were available.  The consumer price index (CPI), which slowed to 3% in April from 4.1% in March, is now at the bottom of the SA Reserve Bank’s (SARB’s) target range of between 3% and 6%.  According to Stats SA, which released the data on Wednesday, April’s rate of 3% was the lowest inflation has been since June 2005, when it was at 2.8%.  The outcome could add to calls for the SARB to cut interest rates further to help support the economy during the Covid-19 crisis.  Due to the lockdown measures Stats SA had to make significant adjustments to its CPI collection methods, as the restrictions prevented the sale of a number of items ranging from clothing to alcohol.  As a result, the April CPI was based on a “significantly limited sample”.  Prices for 171 products, equivalent to 20% of the weight of the CPI basket, were collected online.  Indices where products were not available for sale were estimated using the headline inflation rate.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lynley Donnelly at BusinessLive


REMUNERATION / SALARY PAYMENTS

Solidarity takes Denel to court over failure to pay wages in full

Reuters reports that trade union Solidarity said on Tuesday it had applied to the Labour Court to challenge state arms manufacturer Denel over its failure to pay salaries in full.  Denel is one of several struggling state enterprises the government has been keeping afloat with bailouts but which have been battered by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.  The company is awaiting a R576 million bailout announced in February’s national budget speech.  Solidarity said in a statement that some employees only received 20% of their salaries for May.  It demanded that Denel pay outstanding salaries and payments to third parties – a reference to Denel missing payments to its employee pension fund and some tax obligations – by 3 July.  The Labour Court will apparently hear the case on 30 June.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Alexander Winning at Moneyweb

 


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