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 Thursday morning roundup, see
summaries of our selection of recent South African
labour-related reports.


COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Fourth-wave Covid-19 cases much milder so far, says optimistic Netcare boss

TimesLive reports that private hospital group Netcare said on Wednesday that symptoms of people infected with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 were far milder than those seen in SA’s first three waves of infections. CEO Richard Friedland advised that he had personally seen many patients in Gauteng and about 90% required no oxygen therapy. “While we fully recognise that it is still early days, if this trend continues it would appear that with a few exceptions of those requiring tertiary care, the fourth wave can be adequately treated at a primary care level,” he indicated. In the first three waves, Netcare’s 49 acute hospitals saw 126,000 Covid-19 patients and admitted 55,000, with one in four needing treatment in high care and intensive care. All admitted patients needed oxygen therapy. “As of today, we have 337 Covid-19 positive patients admitted (and) approximately 10% are on some form of oxygenation versus 100% in the first three waves,” Friedland reported. He went on to indicate that “there does appear to be a decoupling in terms of the rate of hospital admissions at this early stage in the evolution of the fourth wave.” Among the 800 Covid-19 patients admitted by Netcare in the last three weeks, three-quarters were unvaccinated. Three of the four patients who died, all of whom had “significant comorbidities”, were unvaccinated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at SowetanLive

Pfizer Covid-19 booster shots get the nod in SA

TimesLIVE reports that Pfizer Covid-19 booster shots have been given the go-ahead for people older than 18. The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that it had approved the “optional third (booster) dose” of the Covid-19 vaccine after the company applied for approval. SAHPRA indicated that it had approved a third dose of the Comirnaty® Covid-19 vaccine in individuals aged 18 years and older, to be administered at least six months after the second dose. It had also approved a third dose of the Comirnaty® Covid-19 vaccine in individuals aged 12 years and older who were severely immunocompromised, to be administered at least 28 days after the second dose. However, the authority said the data only dealt with boosters for the same brand of vaccine, meaning that there would be no “mix-and-match” of the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer shots.

Read the original of the report in the above regard at TimesLIVE. Read too, New study finds Pfizer vaccine neutralises Omicron variant after three doses, at IOL

Dis-Chem gets tough on unvaccinated employees

Moneyweb reports that pharmacy retailer Dis-Chem Group is the latest JSE-listed corporate to implement a vaccine mandate for its employees. In a hard-hitting letter to staff, the company says it has “made the difficult but necessary decision to make Covid-19 vaccinations a requirement across the group” by 1 February 2022. All employees who are not fully vaccinated by that date will be required every Monday to provide a negative antigen test before entering any Dis-Chem facility and to wear an N95 mask at all times. Both of these requirements will be at the employee’s cost. The company indicated that “if either of these are not complied with, disciplinary action will be taken”. The company notes in the letter that it operates in the healthcare sector and “a large proportion of our employees interact directly with the public”. In a media statement, the group said its “top priority is to ensure the health and safety of its staff, customers and community. For this reason, it has advised that all staff must be vaccinated.” It added that it “has gone to great lengths to make vaccines easily available for all employees and this commitment will not change.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Moneyweb

Limpopo health department backs University of Venda's decision on mandatory vaccination

News24 reports that the Department of Health in Limpopo has thrown its weight behind a decision by the University of Venda to adopt a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy for all its students, staff and other stakeholders. On Friday, the university announced that its council had taken the decision to implement a mandatory vaccination policy, effective from 1 January 2022.   The health authorities believe the university's decision is the right move in a province where the level of vaccine hesitancy still remains high amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.   In a statement, Limpopo health department spokesperson Neil Shikwambane said the university's decision would be key in protecting the lives of both students and staff.   "It will also increase access to Covid-19 vaccination and expedite the rollout of the vaccines, which are scientifically proven as a leading militant against severe illnesses and possible death due to Covid-19 complications. The department will continue to work and support the university to ensure that it runs a seamless vaccination programme in line with its policy," Shikwambane stated. Meanwhile, the university remained unfazed following a warning by the South African Union of Students (SAUS) that the introduction of mandatory vaccinations at higher education institutions might lead to violent protests in the new academic year.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Russel Molefe at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • SA reports nearly 20 000 Covid-19 cases, an Omicron-wave record, at Moneyweb
  • Covid-19 update: 19,842 new cases and 36 deaths reported in SA, at The Citizen
  • Alcohol industry urges government to provide vaccine policy certainty, at Engineering News
  • More than 50% of adults in Western Cape has had at least one jab, at BusinessLive
  • Sanlam reprices life policies as SA death payouts surge 88% due to Covid-19, at BusinessLive
  • 220 ambulances added to Gauteng emergency services fleet to deal with Covid-19 fourth wave, at SowetanLive


COVID-19 RELIEF FUNDS

NEF scores R40m deal to distribute R1.135bn Covid-19 taxi relief fund

IOL reports that the Department of Transport’s R1.135 billion Covid-19 taxi relief fund will be distributed by the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) for R40 million and qualifying operators will receive a once-off ex gratia payment of R5,000. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula explained that the fund was to assist operators in alleviating the impact of Covid-19 in the taxi industry. ”The relief fund of an amount of R5,000 per qualifying operator is not intended to compensate for loss of income,” Mbalula indicated in directions dated 2 December as issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act . According to the minister, the taxi industry bore the brunt of the restrictions implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus after it was initially forced to limit vehicle capacity to 50% and later 70%. He said the net effect of the stringent measures was a declining revenue base and increasing costs that have left many taxi operators struggling to stay afloat financially. To qualify, taxi operators will have to be South African citizens or permanent residents, be in possession of a valid operating license or a receipt as proof of renewal of an operational license at the start of the national lockdown.   Taxi operators are defined as any person holding an operating license to ferry passengers for reward by either a motorcar, minibus or midi-bus. Operators will also need to have been registered with the SA Revenue Service (Sars) for income tax at the start of the national state of disaster in March last year. The deadline for the submission of applications for the taxi relief fund is 28 February 2022, and payments must be completed by the end of March next year.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Loyiso Sidimba at IOL

State recovers R111m fraudulently claimed by Pretoria businessman from UIF's Covid-19 relief scheme

News24 reports that the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has declared that R111m in the frozen bank accounts of Hammanskraal businessman Thabo Abel Simbini be forfeited to the State. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the forfeiture order that the court issued on Tuesday followed a successful preservation order it obtained last year in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act on the basis that the funds constituted the proceeds of crime. According to the NPA, Simbini, through his business Impossible Services, defrauded the UIF by claiming he had to lay off more than 6,000 employees because of Covid-19. The NPA said the recovered funds would be paid back to the UIF.   Simbini is also facing charges of corruption in a matter before the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court.   He was arrested in 2020 during an undercover operation by the Hawks after he allegedly tried to bribe an UIF official for the release of the stolen UIF funds. He paid the UIF official a bribe of R10,000 and was arrested during a sting operation by members of the DPCI. The matter has been postponed to 1 February 2022.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Canny Maphanga at News24


STRIKES

Amid ongoing wage strike, employees at Tiger Brands snacks division to work through holidays to claw back production

BL Premium reports that the indefinite pay strike at Tiger Brands’ snacks and treats division has disrupted its operations so severely the company will have to continue operations right through the festive period to claw back production. The industrial action in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) started on 10 November when about 1,200 members affiliated to the African Meat Industry and Allied Trade Union (Amitu) downed tools at the division that makes chocolates and sweets in support of their demands for a 7% pay increase. The workers rejected the management’s proposal for a pay rise of 3%. Tiger Brands said despite numerous engagements prior to the strike commencing and company’s ongoing attempts to reach a settlement, the union had yet to table an updated settlement proposal. Tiger Brands has also been affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns and was among businesses affected by the violent unrest in Gauteng and KZN in July, which forced the food producer to temporarily close all operations in KZN.   On Wednesday, Tiger Brands confirmed that the strike had disrupted normal operations. “Therefore, the snacks and treats operations will not close over the festive period as has been customary in the past. Operations will continue throughout the festive season,” the company advised. Amitu national co-ordinator Lungelo Makhathini said the strike would continue.   Yet Tiger Brands did also indicate the following: “In recognition of the loss of income and the financial hardship employees are experiencing as a result of this protracted strike action, during which the no work no pay principle applies, the company will pay a ‘13th cheque’ to qualifying employees of the snacks & treats division before the end of December 2021, even though the strike continues.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Luyolo Mkentane at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)


JOB CREATION

New study shows up to 72,000 energy transition jobs could be created in Mpumalanga by 2030

Engineering News reports that a new study shows that Mpumalanga province can compensate for a large share of the job losses that will arise in its declining coal sector and lay the foundations for the creation of a new clean-energy hub for the country by scaling up investments in renewable energy and accelerating coal decommissioning. Published by the COBENEFITS project, which is financed via the International Climate Initiative, the study assesses the co-benefits of a transition from coal to renewable energy. Using analysis conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Enertrag, Prime Africa and Navitas Energy, the report includes various transition scenarios for the province and outlines the potential for job creation and local value creation, as well as skill requirements and opportunities for gender-inclusiveness. Under the most ambitious scenario, dubbed the ‘Super H2igh Road’, the study shows that up to 72,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs could be created in Mpumalanga by 2030. These would be primarily in renewable-energy plant construction, with operations and maintenance accounting for 20% of the total jobs.   The scenario envisages the renewables capacity being deployed on repurposed Eskom sites, including Komati, Camden, Grootvlei, Arnot and Hendrina, as well as on coal mining land in the area. It also foresees the building of additional renewables capacity in Mpumalanga for green hydrogen production.

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


SALARY NON-PAYMENTS

Government boost of R2.9bn for Denel hasn’t helped its situation as union pushed hard over unpaid salaries

Business Report writes that a R2.9 billion shot in the arm from the state to arms manufacturer Denel has not helped its situation as it still has to struggle with the disposal of its assets. A large part of the R2.9 billion subvention from Finance Minister Enock Godongwana in his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) is being used to reduce interest payments on debt while Denel negotiates with interested buyers for the sale of some assets, including properties, by January next year to stabilise its finances. This as trade union UASA is pushing legal action on two fronts against the SOE, namely with Public Protector Busisisiwe Mkhwebane and through a contempt of court charge with the Labour Court, after Denel reneged on an August 2020 judgement to settle its mounting salary bills. Denel on Friday asked the Labour Court for breathing space, until late 2022, to make payment, but Judge Reghana Tulk ruled that the matter be postponed to 16 March 2022. UASA argued that such a postponement would have allowed Denel two years to comply, which it considered a long period considering how Denel’s inability to honour the court ruling had affected UASA members working for the SOE. UASA has taken a further approach in its fight with Denel by laying a formal complaint against Denel with the public protector. UASA spokesperson Abigail Moyo said it was most disappointing that the government, the sole shareholder of Denel, was not willing to assist the affected workers, as the recent R2.9bn that was granted to the SOE was for secured debt only and not for salary payments. Last week, Denel Land Systems confirmed it would not be able to pay November salaries and thirteenth cheques due to extreme financial pressures, while the group had initiated voluntary severance packages in order to reduce the staff count.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Banele Ginindza at Business Report


QUALIFICATIONS

Zululand district municipality verification audit unmasks seven senior managers for not being qualified

TimesLIVE reports that the Zululand district municipality has found that five senior managers are not qualified for their jobs while two do not have post-matric qualifications. The information came to light after mayor Thulasizwe Buthelezi gave 34 senior managers ultimatums to submit their qualifications for verification to ensure compliance with municipal competency levels for senior managers. “The verification process revealed some senior managers do not possess the appropriate qualifications while others do not have any qualifications at all [post-matric]. Zululand district municipality will implement consequence management on the affected managers, and some cases will lead to disciplinary hearings being convened.” Buthelezi indicated. The seven posts will be advertised immediately “as a result of resignations and the reconfiguration of duties to allow new skills to be brought into the municipality”. The mayor had previously opined that retaining qualified managers only would enable the municipality to eradicate dysfunctional governance and mismanagement.

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


BASIC EDUCATION / TEACHING

Limpopo teachers cry foul over withdrawal of rural work bonus

SowetanLive reports that Limpopo teachers have raised concerns about the cancelation of rural incentives as they are already earning low salaries. This followed upon the Limpopo education department issuing a circular on termination of payment of the incentives to educators with effect from January 2022.   About 6,000 teachers in quartile 1 schools current receive a monthly rural allowance of between R2,300 and R2,500.   The circular, dated 30 November and signed by Onica Dederen, the head of department, read: “The Limpopo department of education implements the policy of incentives to educators as approved by minister. Currently, the policy is implemented based on the criterion of weighted distance as a measure of the remoteness of schools classified as quartile 1.   Reason for termination is that there are no additional resources available for allocation over 2021 medium-term expenditure framework, instead there is a massive budget cut on compensation of workers (COE).” But, Tjebane Sowell, SA Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial secretary, said it was legally untenable for the Limpopo education HOD “to arrogate to herself powers that she does not have under the law to terminate a policy of general application.” He said this could lead to a flurry of litigation against the department. “We do not rule out embarking upon an indefinite strike come January next year once all avenues have been exhausted,” Sowell added.

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


WORKPLACE CORRUPTION / FRAUD

Former Free State mayor sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud

News24 reports that Mandla Mamba, the former mayor of Nketoane municipality in the Free State, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and money laundering that resulted in the municipality losing more than R364,000. Mamba and his co-accused, namely Vincent Mkhefa who also got eight years and Caroline Nketu who was sentenced to four years, appeared in the Bethlehem Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday. Mkhefa is a former CFO in the municipality, while Nketu was a service provider.   They were found guilty of fraud, money laundering and contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act.   During his term as mayor, Mamba irregularly sourced quotations and paid for playground equipment from Nketu that another company had already provided. “No services were rendered by Nketu to the municipality," Hawks spokesperson Captain Christopher Singo indicated. The Hawks began investigations after a whistleblower came forward to report the matter in 2011, and in 2019 the three were arrested.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lwandile Bhengu at News24


OTHER HEADLINES OF INTEREST

  • People with disabilities protest at Parliament demanding better access to jobs, housing and transport, at GroundUP
  • City of Cape Town celebrates new graduate class of firefighters, at IOL
  • NUM to march on Saturday to Megawatt Park over unbundling at Eskom, on page 4 of The Star of 8 December 2021
  • Shamila Batohi insists there is no crisis at the NPA, at IOL
  • Calls for SABC head of news Phatiswa Magopeni's disciplinary hearing to be open to the media, at News24
  • Opinion: Mining sector has an obligation to fight gender-based violence, at BusinessLive

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page