NEWS & ANALYSIS

Lockdown: SAFTU condemns employers obsessed with profits

Greediness taking place in face of biggest health and economic catastrophe ever to face human kind

SAFTU condemns the employers who are obsessed with profits in the face of the biggest health and economic catastrophe ever to face human kind

26 March 2020

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) condemns in particular in the private sector. SAFTU is undaunted with calls from workers that some employers are still forcing workers to report, claiming to be essential services when they are not. In the common cases, the employers are forcing workers to sign and sacrifice their annual leave for the 21 days lockdown declared by the President.

SAFTU reiterate its unequivocal support of the measurers announced by the President to lockdown our country in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

It would be naïve on the part of anybody to think that all the employers will abide by the spirt of the regulations as demonstrated by the number of calls we are receiving from workers. It is in the nature of the capitalist system to be selfish, self-centred and greedy.

Generally the private sector employers cut corners and side step worker protections accruing from the various pieces of labour legislation. All most 50% of workers do not get regular annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, or the agreed to wages and conditions of employment.

Disappointingly even in the face of the crisis of the magnitude, some employers are angling to cut corners!

Below is the few examples provided by some of the SAFTU affiliated unions.

THORN- a Company in Durban Iqlaas Food which makes Halal pies and samosas that are sold in big retail stores, management is demanding that workers must report for duty during the lockdown

NUMSA- a company in Ekurhuleni AVENG trident steel 273 employees are forced to take annual leave during lockdown period

FAWU- hospitality a hotel in Johannesburg Parktonian Hotel employer is refusing to pay workers

GIWUSA Clover – workers are on strike as they are not provided with the protective clothing as they would be working as part of the contingency of workers providing essential services.

The list is endless since most of our affiliates are at war. As we have seen the Minister of Defence deploying every military personnel to our communities, we want the Minister of Labour to deploy an equivalent of labour inspectors to every factory, farm and workplace like they did with the military.

Public Sector employees

The Minister of finance, Tito Mboweni during his austerity budget speech on the 26 February, announced that government would cut R162 billion over the midterm budget, resulting from the cutting of R3.9 billion from the health budget at the time when our public hospital has chronic staff and infrastructure backlogs. SAFTU is extremely concerned that the chickens may come back home to roost during this crisis.

Already our unions are reporting that there is lack of plan and coordination inside government. Some of the frontline workers still do not have protective clothing. Some don’t know how they will go to and from work from tomorrow as there are no clear plans, etc.

SAFTU is also extremely concerned that the moral of the public sector workers is at its lowest as 01 April 2020 looms. On this day government is intending not to implement a wage agreement negotiated in the PSCBC in 2018. As a result every public servant including the front liners will see their conditions of employment and wages taking a dive of 4.5% which is the rate of inflation.

Notwithstanding all these challenges, SAFTU salutes the unparalleled determination of all the public sector workers whose conditions are under attack from their employers but who have for the sake of their fellow country men and women decided to work for long hours under extremely challenging conditions.

SAFTU is all companies and workers of the interventions announced by the President that are applying during the lockdown?

1.     Workers will receive wage payment through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, which will enable companies to pay employees directly during this period and avoid retrenchment.

2.     Any employee who falls ill through exposure at their workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund.

3.     President Ramaphosa called on larger businesses, in particular, to take care of their workers during this period.

4.     The government will use the reserves within the UIF to provide support to workers in small businesses and other vulnerable firms who are faced with the loss of income and whose companies are unable to provide support.

5.     Using the tax system, the government will provide a tax subsidy of up to R500 per month for the next four months for those private-sector employees earning below R6,500 under the Employment Tax Incentive.

What help does the Minister of Employment and Labour offer?

On the 25th of March 2020, Mr ThulasNxesi, the Minister of Employment and Labour, issued a government notice which is intended to help the bosses and workers. The Minister says the following in the government notice;

1.     During the lockdown, companies will have to shut down their businesses and workers will be laid off temporarily. This means workers are forced to take leave which is not out of their choosing.

2.     The employers are encouraged to pay workers, but where this is not possible, the government has created a particular benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Fund (the UIF).

3.     Should a company close its operations for three months or lesser period as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, such a company shall qualify for a COVID-19 Temporary Relief Benefit.

4.     The benefits will only pay for the cost of salaries of workers during the temporary closure of the business.

5.     The salary benefits will be capped to a maximum amount of R17 712, 00 per month.

6.     For the company to qualify for the temporary financial relief scheme, the company must do the following;

a.     The company must be registered with the UIF
b.     The company’s closure must be directly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic

7.     Where a worker is in quarantine for 14 days due to COVID-19, the worker shall qualify for illness benefits

8.     Employers must apply by reporting the closure of their companies to email box [email protected]

SAFTU is demanding to Both Government and Private Sector Employers

Free Water, gloves, soap and Sanitizer at every workplace and working-class communities

Free Testing for all

Collection of waste refusal (dustbin) during the lockdown

Provide Food parcels and nutritional food for all communities

Public transport must be accessible for all essential service workers and others

No to Profiteering during the lockdown

No to loss of pay during lockdown and Bosses must Pay full salaries

Deploy Labour inspectors to every workplace in the country and enforce employers to comply

Issued by Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary, SAFTU, 26 March 2020