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, 29 July 2020.


TOP STORY – UNEMPLOYMENT / JOB CREATION

SA’s unemployment figure goes past the 10 million mark in first quarter

Business Report writes that SA’s unemployment rate in the formal non-agricultural sector accelerated past the 10 million mark in the first quarter of 2020.  Data on Tuesday from Statistics SA (Stats SA) from its Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) survey showed that the formal non-agricultural sector shed 3,000 jobs during the period.  Stats SA said employment plunged to 10.2 million quarter-on-quarter as conditions in the labour market remained sluggish.  The agency reported that the decline was largely due to decreases in the trade, construction and manufacturing industries.  It noted that the manufacturing sector recorded an annual decrease of 28,000 employees, compared with a similar period last year, and a quarterly decrease of 2,000 employees from December 2019.  The QES survey showed community services, business services, mining, and transport recorded moderate lifts in employment during the quarter, while employment in the electricity industry remained unchanged.  Stats SA pointed lout that the QES survey was not indicative of the impact on employment of the Covid-19 pandemic as it looked at the period ending in March.  Investec economist Lara Hodes commented that Covid-19 added to an already grim picture.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siphelele Dludla at Business Report

New government infrastructure projects costing R360 billion to create 275,000 in six sectors

The Citizen reports that the government has unveiled 50 strategic infrastructure projects (Sips) and 12 special projects involving total investments of R360 billion, as the first tranche of a massive infrastructure expenditure programme to drive the post Covid-19 economic recovery effort.  These initial Sip projects are expected to create an estimated 275,000 jobs in six sectors, namely water and sanitation; energy; transport; digital infrastructure; agriculture and agro processing; and human settlements.  Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, head of the investment and infrastructure office in the Presidency, said on Monday that these “are projects that are shovel-ready, so in the next three months we will be able to go into the ground … and ensure we are able to stop the haemorrhaging of jobs in the economy.”  He said funding from the debt capital market accounted for R340 billion of the total investment in these projects and “these projects don’t draw money from the fiscus.”  Ramokgopa added:  “These are projects that are commercially viable through the Sips methodology. Some of them will require a bit of unlocking.”  Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, said the projects had been gazetted in terms of the Infrastructure Development Act, which enabled their development and implementation to be prioritised.  De Lille provided a breakdown of the projects in the six sectors (as detailed in the news report).

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Roy Cokayne on page 22 of The Citizen of 29 July 2020


COVID-19 HEALTH & SAFETY

Nehawu’s hospital 'fact-finding' mission found PPE and staff shortages, amongst many problems

TimesLIVE reports that the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) on Tuesday briefed the media on what it said was a fact-finding mission on the state's readiness to confront Covid-19 in hospitals.  General secretary Zola Saphetha advised that the site visits were undertaken in response to complaints from union members about their working conditions.  He detailed the report’s findings and outlined recommendations that would help improve conditions.  The report indicated that in almost all health-care institutions that were visited, Nehawu’s teams found that there were “generalised shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) four months after the union was told by government there was enough PPE in stock, and that it was undertaking additional procurement to replenish what was in the warehouses.”  It also highlighted that in some institutions, cleaning staff and porters were left unprotected because of the misconception that PPE was only for clinical staff.  In all public institutions visited, the shortage of staff was one of the primary factors raised, not only by workers, but also by some managers.  Two members of Nehawu were apparently given final written warnings by management for refusing to perform their duties without PPE at the Tygerberg Hospital.  Additionally, the Nehawu team found “an unfolding disaster in the maternity ward at Dora Nginza Hospital.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Cebelihle Bhengu at TimesLIVE. Read too, Nehawu threatens to shut SA down in September over PPE, at BusinessLive And also, 'Workers had to resort to using refuse bags to protect themselves', Nehawu report finds, at News24

Nehawu doubts accuracy of Health Department’s Covid-19 statistics

EWN reports that the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) has expressed doubts about the accuracy of official Covid-19 statistics.  The union’s national office bearers briefed members of the media in Johannesburg on Tuesday following a fact-finding mission at hospitals across the country.  Official figures show the country has more than 452,000 infections, with almost 275,000 recoveries, but Nehawu’s leadership believes that the figures released daily by the Health Department are not accurate.  In its view, the official daily report was not a correct reflection of what was happening on the ground as the union had received a different story from members.  National general secretary Zola Sapheta claimed that they had many reasons to question the statistics.  The union also said the arrival of the Covid-19 in the county had exposed government’s weaknesses and a leadership crisis.

Read the original of the above report by Edwin Ntshidi at EWN

Staff picket at Pietermaritzburg’s Northdale Hospital demanding better protection from Covid-19 infection

GroundUp reports that staff at Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg picketed on Tuesday inside the hospital’s premises demanding safer working conditions and more personal protective equipment (PPE).  This was the second picket in a week.  One nurse said conditions in the hospital were not safe for staff or patients during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The nurse claimed:  “Patients who have tested positive are put in the same ward with patients who have other illnesses. We have raised that with the management but they have failed to listen and correct that. Covid-19 positive patients use the same bathrooms. They are not separated from other patients.”  She also claimed patients did not have enough food.  Another nurse said the hospital was opening more wards to take in Covid-19 positive patients, but staff were not trained on how to handle infections.  “There is a shortage of staff and PPE. We have to keep wearing the same gowns which is not safe,” the nurse claimed.  Sihle Makhaye of trade union Nehawu said workers were at risk and management was “avoiding meetings”.  A spokesperson for the health department denied that there was a shortage of food in the hospital and, on other issues, indicated they were currently being resolved.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nompendulo Ngubane at GroundUp

More than 30 police stations nationwide temporarily closed

The Citizen reports that more than 30 police stations across the country have been temporarily closed for decontamination after workers tested positive for Covid-19.  But, police officials have assured the public there would be minimal service interruptions because contingency measures have been put in place for the stations to continue operating.  The police minister’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, said closing police stations was in accordance with required protocol if staff tested positive for Covid-19.  She advised that most of the infections were among police officers.  “We are currently sitting on 10,912 infections and 106 fatalities.  Apart from the positive figure, 1,786 are employed under the Public Service Act.  These people are cleaners, receptionists, call centre agents, and administration staff.  We have had 4,723 recoveries all together,” Themba indicated.  SA Police Service (Saps) spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo advised that decontamination would take 12 to 24 hours and that the client service centre was generally relocated to another place – either a mobile station, a vacant building close by.  

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Sonri Naidoo at The Citizen

Three KZN drivers’ licence testing centres reopen, but eight close as Covid-19 infections continue

Daily News reports that three drivers’ licence testing centres (DLTCs) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have reopened, even as eight more have closed due to Covid-19 infections.  Rossburgh DLTC, Port Shepstone DLTC and Camperdown DLTC and Registering Authority (RA) reopened on Monday.  The KZN transport department advised that it was now compulsory for the customers to bring an optometrist report to avoid using its eye testing machines.  Pinetown DLTC did not reopen as previously advised because of positive Covid-19 cases.  Newcastle DLTC and RA and Nkandla DLTC are still closed because of Covid-19 cases.  However, six more municipal DLTCs have had to be closed because of Covid-19, namely Ladysmith, Kokstad, Eshowe, Big 5 Hlabisa, Mandeni and Ixopo.  Moreover, Mtubatuba, Nongoma, KwaMbonambi, Creighton and Pongola DLTCs have not been operational and the municipalities are closed.  The Mkondeni DLTC in Pietermaritzburg reopened last weekas did Richmond DLTC, while Empangeni DLTC had to close until further notice.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Thobeka Ngema at Daily News


LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS

Public schools close for four weeks, but closure regulations not yet gazetted

BL Premium reports that the government has still not gazetted the regulations relating to the closure of public schools, creating a loophole for those institutions to remain open.  President Cyril Ramaphosa, who had been under intense pressure from teacher unions to shut schools, announced last week that all public schools would be closed from 27 July to 24 August, with the exception of matric and grade 7 pupils.  The move means that the academic year will be pushed beyond the end of 2020.  The delay in publication of the closure regulations has caused uncertainty and stalled a legal challenge to Ramaphosa’s decision.  Department of Basic Education (DBE) spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said they were in the process of compiling the regulations, which was a “complex and detailed” matter.  DA leader John Steenhuisen said the party remained on standby to launch its court application against the decision to close public schools once the regulations had been published.  Five teacher unions reportedly met DBE director-general Mathanzima Mweli on Monday night to find out when Minister Angie Motshekga would reveal details about the management of the rest of the academic year, but they refused to talk about the outcome of that meeting.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Genevieve Quintal at BusinessLive (paywall access only). Read too, Cosas threatens to shut private schools, DBE says have a right to stay open, at The Mercury

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Wedding industry facing ruin due to lockdown restrictions, on page 6 of The Star of 29 July 2020


COVID-19 RELIEF FUNDS

Netflix donates R8.3m in Covid-19 relief funds to SA film and TV industry

BusinessLive reports that online streaming giant Netflix will be donating R8.3m in support of the local film and television industry.  During the first part of the national Covid-19 lockdown, local video production was particularly hit and many film and television productions were halted, leaving actors and other related professionals out of work for some time.  On Tuesday, Netflix said it would donate $500,000 (about R8.3m), which would be administered by Tshikululu Social Investments, “who will screen the applications for eligibility as well as disburse the funds to beneficiaries”.  The donation is part of a global effort by Netflix to assist the industry.  The Covid-19 Film and Television Relief Fund was created in partnership with the SA Screen Federation (Sasfed), and the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO).  In a statement, Dorothy Ghettuba, Netflix’s lead for African Originals, said they were proud to be working with Sasfed and IPO on the project.  Other players, such as pay-TV operator MultiChoice, instituted similar action early on during the lockdown.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mudiwa Gavaza at BusinessLive. Read too, Relief fund set up for local film, TV, on page 3 of The Star of 29 July 2020


MINING LABOUR

More dangerous during the pandemic to work in government than on SA’s mines

BL Premium comments that some politicians and community activists like to beat the mining industry with the claim that since the industry returned to work, it has been the epicentre of the Covid-19 epidemic in SA.  Mining has been one of the industries returning to full capacity and has been allowed to do this in phases, with a total return to operations allowed from the beginning of June under strict safety protocols.  Mines are obliged to report their daily screening and testing results to government departments, giving ready ammunition to critics as to the number of positive cases and fatalities.  But, the label that it is an epicentre of Covid-19 is not valid.  Based on data provided by the Department of Public Service & Administration, by 7 July there were 22,219 government employees out of 1.2-million who had tested positive for the virus, and 234 who had died.  The mining industry, as at that date, had 5,369 positive cases out of the 300,676 people back at work, and 45 deaths.  Based on other metrics, the number of positive tests and fatalities per 100,000 people both show the government sector to be at higher levels than the mining industry.  Four government ministers, including mines minister Gwede Mantashe, have tested Covid-19 positive.  Two mining company CEOs have tested positive, but have recovered.  So, to inject a note of realism into the debate, it’s more dangerous working for the government during the epidemic than in the mining industry.

Read the full original of the comments in the above regard at BusinessLive (paywall access only)


BUSINESS RESCUE / RESTRUCTURING

Comair’s rescue practitioners consider two recapitalisation offers, but want rescue plan deadline extended

BL Premium reports that Comair’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) have asked creditors to extend the date for the submission of a business rescue plan by a month, as they negotiate short-term bridging funding to ensure the company covers its operational expenses.  The practitioners also want the publication of the plan, which was due on Tuesday, to be delayed so they can consider two offers from potential investors to recapitalise the company, which operates Kulula operator and is a British Airways franchisee.  The two unnamed investors are said to be both offering up to a R1.5bn cash injection.  Should creditors grant the extension, the due date for the plan will be moved to 28 August.  Comair was placed in business rescue at the beginning of May.  The BRPs have come under fire in recent weeks by unions and others for pushing to double their fees for restructuring the airline, to R4,000 each an hour.  Their present earnings of R2,000 an hour translates to about R25,000 a day including VAT.   Shareholders and creditors were scheduled to vote on this on 21 July, but that was postponed.  A new date for the vote has yet to be announced.

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


LIQUIDATIONS

With SA Express in provisional liquidation, employees are still pleading for government help

Fin24 reports that employees at state-owned regional airline SA Express are still desperately hoping that government will be able to assist them in getting their unpaid salaries, as well as retrenchment packages.  Salaries were last paid in in February.  Unlike SA Airways, which is still in business rescue, SA Express was provisionally liquidated at the end of April after a failed business rescue attempt.  A court hearing on whether the airline should be placed in final liquidation will take place on 9 September.  For months, a group of SA Express employees has been picketing on and off at the offices of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), asking for financial help.  In an email dated 23 July, the group received feedback from the DPE's Nonny Mashika to say that the department had been liaising with the provisional liquidator of the airline "to identify a holistic approach" to the challenges faced by the employees.  Mashika said further engagements with the provisional liquidator would be undertaken, while the department has asked him to explore all options available for further consideration by government.  She also indicated that the DPE was continuing to engage with National Treasury and other agencies of government to seek a solution to the challenges faced by the SA Express employees.  Government, as the airline's shareholder, does not have a legal obligation to pay for severance packages at SA Express.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Carin Smith at Fin24


MISCONDUCT / DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Eskom institutes disciplinary hearing against 'drunk' employee involved in car accident

TimesLIVE reports that power utility Eskom will be instituting disciplinary action against an employee who was caught on video allegedly drunk after having been involved in an accident.  The video clip that circulated on social media shows the Gauteng employee using a vehicle belonging to the utility.  In the clip, the employee is seen battling to stand after being involved in a car accident with a third party.  “We are grateful that there were no injuries in this incident. Furthermore, the law enforcement agencies are handling the matter in line with the road regulations,” Eskom indicated in a statement.  The conduct of the employee, Eskom said, had caused “serious” reputational damage to the organisation.  It expressed its regret at the risks the behaviour of its employee might have subjected other road users and pedestrians to.

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

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Controversy hits Sascoc’s ‘Secret Seven’ disciplinary body, at BusinessLive

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page