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, 13 January 2021.


COVID-19 HEALTH & SAFETY

Western Cape expects that vaccine jabs for 100,000 healthcare staff will get going within weeks

BL Premium reports that the Western Cape government estimates that 100,000 healthcare workers will need to be immunised during the first phase of its Covid-19 vaccination rollout, which is expected to get under way within a matter of weeks.  Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced last week that the national government had secured 1.5-million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India, earmarked for health-care workers.  Two-thirds are due to arrive in SA later this month, and the final third in February.  Each province is expected to devise its own vaccination plan.  Western Cape head of health Keith Cloete outlined the provincial government’s plan, which includes setting up an electronic registry of people to be vaccinated.  Cloete said vaccination would be voluntary.  "Each person will get an appointment, sign a consent form, get their first dose and appointment for their second dose, and proof of vaccination will be issued," he indicated.  Western Cape premier Alan Winde, who said last week that he would seek to procure additional Covid-19 vaccines independently of the national government’s efforts, said he had not yet had any success.

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

Eastern Cape lost 161 health workers to Covid-19 since March last year

EWN reports that 161 healthcare workers have died from Covid-19 complications in the Eastern Cape since the pandemic reached SA’s shores in March last year.  The province’s health department briefed Parliament’s health portfolio committee on Wednesday on some of the grim realities facing citizens in the province, which is among the most affected areas in the country.  The health workers who died in the Eastern Cape were among 9,249 of the province’s medical personnel who have succumbed to infection.  The acting head of department in the province, Sibongile Zungu, said: “We do have challenges in the whole province, we have lost staff members and we have a psychosocial support stream.”  Although the pace of infections has somewhat improved in the province since mid-December, Zungu said they were picking up other worrying trends.  She explained that while cases were subsiding in the Nelson Mandela Bay and Sarah Baartman districts, which accounted for close to 80% of all transmissions in the province, Joe Gqabi District was seeing a rise in cases.  Comparatively, when considering the population group in the district, the cases there were much higher than elsewhere in the province.

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

Solidarity publishes ten-point return-to-work Covid-19 safety plan

Engineering News reports that trade union Solidarity has compiled and distributed a ten-point plan outlining its strategy for the return to work of hundreds of employees following the festive season.  The premise of the plan is that employers should be “fearless against the [Covid-19] virus”, as well as “fearless towards the saving of the economy and jobs”.  Solidarity deputy general secretary Paul Mardon pointed out that, under the current government-instituted Covid-19 lockdown regulations, and with a few exceptions, most employees were permitted to return to work after the holidays.  “Our ten-point plan is within the statutory framework of the Covid-19 regulations. This plan does not make a choice between work and health, but rather a choice towards healthy work,” he noted.  However, he also acknowledged that the risks in terms of Covid-19 “look completely different” than what SA was experiencing at the start of December and before people went on leave.  As such, the return of employees who were on holiday and at their homes, would bring new risks to the workplace.  Furthermore, the second wave of Covid-19 infections has also not yet reached its peak, thereby exacerbating the situation.  Although the ten-point plan takes the risk of the second wave into account, it also aims to protect existing jobs.  As such, Solidarity claims that its plan provides for proper risk analyses.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News. Read Solidarity’s press statement on this matter and download the plan at <https://solidariteit.co.za/en/solidarity-sends-plan-for-return-to-work-to-employers/>

Teachers’ unions want to meet basic education minister over reopening of schools

SowetanLive reports that teacher unions have requested an urgent meeting with Department of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga amid fears over the rising number of infections in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.  The unions said this would be a crucial meeting that would inform decisions about whether their members returned to schools if they reopened on 25 January as proposed.  They have raised concerns about the number of teachers who have died of Covid-19 and those who were currently infected, as well as concerns over capacity.  “Many teachers are sick and some have since passed away and this will lead to a severe shortage of teachers. We need to ensure that there is a teacher in front of every learner,” said Ben Machibi of the Professional Educators Union.  He added that the department must implement a staggered reopening of schools because if all pupils returned on the same day, it would not be possible to observe safety protocols.  On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) was dealing with concerns over the reopening of schools.  Basil Manuel of the National Professional Teachers' Organisation said they were surprised when Ramaphosa did not pronounce on the reopening of schools.  “We have asked [for] a meeting with the minister as we want to understand what is going on. We have been preparing for schools to open on the announced date but at the same time there are lots of fears. We need to understand the impact that this is having on schools,” he stated.  Mugwena Maluleke of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said in dealing with the second wave, it was critical that the number of infections must be seen to have declined for 14 consecutive days before schools could reopen safely.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Yoliswa Sobuwa at SowetanLive

KZN education MEC rejects union calls to halt matric marking after Covid-19 deaths of two markers

TimesLIVE reports that calls from trade unions to halt matric marking in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) after the deaths of two teachers from two different marking centres have been rejected by the provincial education department.  Teacher unions raised concerns about the safety of their members at matric exam marking centres after the death of the two markers, one from the Estcourt marking centre and the other from the Inanda Seminary marking centre in Durban.  Siphiwe Mpungose of the Educators' Union of SA has been at the forefront of this call, citing concern over the safety of markers.  But education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said there was no need for concern.  He said measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at marking centres were adequate and cited the lack of transmissions at the two centres concerned as proof that the systems put in place by the department were effective.  “We did not register a single case of a spread of the virus at our marking centres. Those cases we report as positive are of those who contracted the virus outside the marking centres. Because of the efficiency of our system we were able to detect them and refer them to hospital for testing,” Mshengu indicated.  KZN has 8,730 markers in 30 centres spread across the province.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Zimasa Matiwane at TimesLIVE

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Gauteng gets more beds, healthcare workers as it gears up to enter 'eye of the Covid-19 storm', at News24
  • Gauteng gears up for top of 2nd wave, on page 4 of Sowetan of 13 January 2021


LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS

Liquor traders plead with government to allow off-site liquor trading to save jobs

Fin24 reports that SA’s wine producers and liquor traders have slammed the government’s extension of the ban on the sale of alcohol, saying it will kill businesses and livelihoods. The country is on its third alcohol ban since the outbreak of Covid-19 last year, following an unprecedented rise in cases and concerns that hospital beds will be filled up by alcohol related trauma cases.  Alcohol producers have been at loggerheads with the government for months over the bans, culminating in SA Breweries taking legal action.  Lucky Ntimane of the Liquor Traders Formation said on Tuesday that Ramaphosa had not consulted adequately with the industry before extending the ban.  The industry has called for off-premises alcohol trading in order to protect livelihoods.  The country’s taverns and shebeens employ 250,000 people out of the 415,000 livelihoods the industry accounts for and 165,000 people have already lost their jobs across the industry.  Ntimane said most liquor traders would not be able to reopen their doors once the ban was lifted.  The wine industry, a major role player in the Western Cape’s and the country’s economy, has already suffered significant financial and job losses during the two previous bans on alcohol sales in 2020 and more jobs tied to the wine value chain were being compromised, said Jannie Strydom, CEO of Agri Western Cape.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Penelope Mashego at Fin24. Read too, Businesses on the brink from ban of alcohol, on page 4 of Sowetan of 13 January 2021

Under extended lockdown regulations, permits required for those who travel to work during curfew

The Citizen reports that persons who travel to work in the early hours of the morning will need a permit from their employer, in order to avoid falling foul of the curfew conditions in the latest gazetted version of the Disaster Management Act.  Earlier this week, Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gazetted the lockdown regulations that amended the curfew hours to 9pm-5am, and explained the new rules in a briefing on Tuesday afternoon.  This came President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the country’s level 3 lockdown period and announced that alcohol sales and some gatherings would remain prohibited under the adjusted level 3 strategy.  Moreover, SA’s land borders would be closed until February.  Dlamini-Zuma pointed out that workers’ permits needed to be signed by an employer and reiterated that the movement of people was allowed, however, not during the curfew hours.  The minister highlighted that social, religious, political, traditional council meetings, and other gatherings were still prohibited, but people were allowed to visit libraries and museums.  During the briefing, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed the temporary suspension of services provided by his department, including smart ID card applications (except for matric pupils), passport applications (except for people allowed to travel), registrations of marriages and ID collections.

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

At least 7,000 arrested and charged in two weeks for not wearing masks

TimesLIVE reports that at least 7,000 persons were arrested and charged for not wearing protective masks in public between 27 December and 7 January, earning them criminal records.  This was revealed by police minister Bheki Cele in an interview on eNCA on Tuesday evening.  During the interview, Cele said 20,116 people were arrested between 27 December, namely the day before lockdown level 3 restrictions came into effect, and 7 January.  Most of the arrests were for liquor offences and non-wearing of masks.  Cele pointed out that wearing of a mask was mandatory and not wearing one was an offence that could result in a criminal record.  “Now we will take you to the police station and we will take your fingerprints.  You choose to pay a fine or you choose to see the magistrate.  Both those processes give you a criminal record and that's what South Africans must be very wary of — that this will immediately give you a criminal record and we know what criminal records do to your life,” he warned.

Rad the full original of the report in the above regard by Orrin Singh at TimesLIVE

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Manufacturing in contraction as demand remains depressed due to Covid-19 restrictions, at Business Report


TERS EXTENSION

Talks in Nedlac on more Ters relief said to be ‘positive’, as business and labour press for action

BL Premium reports that business and labour are locked in negotiations with the government over resuming the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) for workers affected by the tightening of coronavirus lockdown regulations.  In the wake of the government’s decision to return the country to level 3 of the lockdown, the government and its social partners have been meeting at Nedlac about extending the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s (UIF’s) Ters scheme, which ended in October.  No agreement has been reached on resuming the scheme, but discussions were "positive", according to a knowledgeable source.  The UIF on Tuesday confirmed that discussions around the extension were ongoing.  Labour federation Cosatu’s parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks, who sits on Nedlac, said that ever since the first extension of the Ters benefit in June, social partners have had to push the government to extend the scheme.  "It is always a bit of pulling of teeth," he claimed.  But, BNP Paribas economist Jeffrey Schultz said the scope for relief was "extremely" limited.  He noted that the Ters scheme has seen the drawdown of what were, at the onset of the crisis, very substantial surpluses in the fund.  But now SA does not have the same level of UIF buffers and would have to be more cautious on further drawdowns to avoid it becoming another large contingent liability for the state.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Genevieve Quintal and Lynley Donnelly at BusinessLive (paywall access only)


RETRENCHMENTS

Trade union federation Fedusa calls for moratorium on retrenchments amidst level 3 restrictions

Algoa FM reports that according to the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), the re-imposition of alert level 3 lockdown restrictions by the government was a “bittersweet” move in the light of the hardships being experienced by its members.  The labour federation pointed out in a statement on Wednesday that 2.2 million jobs had been lost in the second quarter of 2020, leaving just 14.4 million employed people in both the formal and informal sectors.  The organisation also claimed that the government’s stimulus package had failed to deliver the “silver bullet” that many had put their hopes on, with inadequate results.  “Employment losses were reported in the business services, transport and mining industries with 7,000, 5,000 and 2,000 jobs respectively,” general-secretary Riefdah Ajam pointed out.  She said Fedusa was therefore calling for a moratorium on all retrenchments and possible future layoff processes.  “Collectively with its social partners, Government must lead the country from crisis to construction and eventual economic conversion, in order to restore the dignity of workers and employers who have been left financially paralysed by the pandemic,” Ajam exhorted.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Algoa FM. Read Fedusa’s press statement at Polity

Centurion Hotel retrenching over 80 staff members because of flood danger

Rekord East reports that at least 86 Centurion Hotel staff members are being retrenched after the hotel’s temporary closure in August last year.  The process started two weeks ago and next week another meeting with the unions is due to be held.  According to a director of Legacy Hotels, Gert Brumme, the group was simply not willing to risk the safety of guests staying at the hotel any longer.  Brumme explained that during heavy rainfall, water from the Hennops river, right across the road from the hotel, flooded the property on its way to the bordering lake.  “Due to pollution and silt built up in the lake, the water gets trapped and embanks onto the property. The water level then simply rises as there is nowhere for the water to drain to,” Brumme said.  On 9 December 2019, the hotel had to remove 65 guests with two helicopters due to a flood.  Three years ago, 11 cars were flooded in the parking area.  Johan Venter, development director of Legacy Hotels, said the group approached the metro at the end of last year with a proposal of various options to safeguard the hotel against floods and they would meet with the metro on Tuesday to discuss possible solutions.

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


MUNICIPALITIES

EFF wants suspension of Amathole municipal manager and launching of forensic investigation into financial mismanagement at the municipality

News24 reports that the EFF in the Eastern Cape has called for the immediate suspension of the Amathole District municipal manager, Thandekile Mnyimba, and for a forensic investigation to be launched into alleged financial mismanagement at the municipality.  This development came after Mnyimba issued a circular informing all 1,670 employees of the municipality that they would not be paid their salaries for four months due to strained financial resources.  The municipality cited a low revenue collection rate, an unaffordable R65 million monthly salary bill, the drought and the pandemic as reasons for its effective bankruptcy.  Previously Mnyimba had cited the fact that the category 6 municipality was unlawfully re-categorised by his predecessors to a category 7 municipality.  This, he said, paved the way for workers and officials to undeservedly get exorbitant salaries and benefits.  But the EFF's provincial chair Yazini Tetyana charged that the party had been made aware of staff grievances including victimisation, flouting of the Municipal Finance Management Act and poor financial management and governance by the municipal manager.  "As the EFF, we call on National Treasury to act by launching a forensic investigation of the financial affairs of the municipality as it is alleged by staff that the Municipal Manager acted in violation of legislation on numerous occasions by illegally outsourcing functions of the municipality to consultants such as the handling of the staff payroll by a foreign company, thus exposing the institution and staff to privacy breaches,” Tetyana indicated.  Tetyana also alleged that Mnyimba increased his own salary, “making him one of the most paid public servants in the province.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Malibongwe Dayimani at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Amathole municipality vows to deliver services despite being broke, at EWN

 


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