news shutterstockIn our afternoon roundup, see summaries
of our selection of South African labour-
related stories that appeared thus far on
Thursday, 19 March 2020.


TOP STORY – CORONAVIRUS / COVID-19

Unprecedented economic damage looks certain for SA in 2020

BL Premium writes that as the world economy hurtles towards a sharp and punishing recession, economists are slashing SA’s growth forecasts for the year with a full-year contraction for 2020 now almost certain.  With a growing global consensus that the Covid-19 crisis could be deeper than the 2008 global financial crisis, SA’s acutely fragile fiscal position signals grave dangers ahead and is likely to see the debt burden accelerate, tax revenue fall further and borrowing conditions for government and state-owned enterprises become a lot tighter.  The crisis could not have come at a worse time for SA, which had slid into recession in the fourth quarter of 2019.  SA has limited fiscal firepower to buffer its economy against the domino effects of necessary containment measures against the virus, globally and at home.  “We are talking about a very deep global recession in the first half of the year, with the worst of it to be felt in the second quarter,” said Jeff Schultz of BNP Paribas.  While BNP Paribas had projected earlier in 2020 that SA’s GDP would shrink 0.2% in 2020, Schultz said a contraction of more than 1% now “seems increasingly likely”.  Sanlam’s Arthur Kamp warned of an unprecedented crisis:  “From an economic policy perspective, this can’t be resolved with the usual macroeconomic tools since it is a behavioural response to a crisis.”  Standard Bank is more bullish, with chief economist Goolam Ballim expecting 0% growth in 2020 and a downturn that will be sharper but briefer than the 2008 crisis.

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

DA welcomes letting businesses skip paying UIF during virus outbreak

The Citizen reports that the Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed the government’s approval to allow businesses to skip Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payments for the coming months and expand UIF coverage to protect affected workers.  “Small and medium enterprises pay tens of thousands of rands to the UIF and this reprieve will be valuable cash flow support for these businesses during this crisis,” DA shadow minister of finance Geordin Hill-Lewis noted.  He pointed out that SA still needed a comprehensive economic support package that would lessen the economic devastation that this virus would inflict on businesses.  Hill-Lewis said a “terrible” economic cost would be paid in the effort to contain and beat the virus:  “That cost is already being felt by small businesses and their employees across the country, in every sector and industry. But these small businesses cannot and will not survive if they have to bear the full brunt of this cost on their own. They need support from the government, and it cannot wait.”  He called on the government to match its virus containment plan with an equally comprehensive economic support package.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at The Citizen. Read too, 'It's unfair,' says restaurant industry as government imposes strict Covid-19 regulations, at TimesLIVE

'We don't feel safe', say Gauteng doctors on the front line against coronavirus

SowetanLive reports on the words of a medical practitioner who works at a public hospital where tests are done to detect Covid-19 and who said:  “I don’t feel safe as a doctor. The practice we are working from is [near] OR Tambo [International Airport] and a lot of the patients we see on a daily basis work at the airport.”  She went on to comment:  “The exposure is heightened in this facility. There are poor measures of hygiene and control. Besides the security guard at the entrance of the hospital who is spraying hands as they walk in and out, within the practice itself we have a sanitiser in the passage, but not one for the patients in the sitting area.”  Another doctor also commented:  “We do not feel safe as doctors. Naturally, one would be concerned about the risk we expose ourselves to on a daily basis and the potential risk of also exposing our beloved families and our patients should we, God forbid, contract the virus. But we took an oath to put our patients as priority, so in such circumstances the best we can do is exercise all the necessary precautions to stay safe.”  A third doctor, who works at a private practice in a Joburg township, said while colleagues were not feeling safe, they were taking extra precautions and measures to deal with the pandemic.  He added that one of the challenges he encountered working in a township was seeing walk-in patients whose symptoms he couldn’t check before the consultation.

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

Gauteng government staffers ditch work amid fears of the spread of coronavirus

News24 reports that staff at the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cogta abandoned their posts amid fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).  Several staffers at the provincial government's Fox Street offices claimed that they have been without cleaning and security staff for two weeks, and that no protective measures have been put in place to combat the spread of the virus.  On Tuesday, employees downed tools and opted to go home instead of working in an uncomfortable and unsafe environment.  One employee of the department complained about feeling "vulnerable" without a clean environment and a lack of security:  "A few weeks ago, there was a community here protesting. We had no protection. Now with the corona[virus], we are dealing with people day to day and nothing has been done to prevent us from getting infected."  Apparently, contracts for cleaners and security workers were not renewed.  Chief director of communications at human settlements, Tahir Sema, confirmed that "serious grievances" were raised on Tuesday morning, with employees opting to down tools and go home.  "The department is working to put measures in place as soon as possible to ensure that our workplaces are properly sanitised to protect staff and members of the public," said Sema.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tshidi Madia at News24

Transport union Untu calls on Mbalula to put the brakes on trains until 14 April

The Citizen reports that the United National Transport Union (Untu) has called for the suspension of train services as a measure to derail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.  The union noted that there were between 300 and 400 commuters on trains during peak hour, and they were in some cases crammed into carriages, a clear violation that went against the health department’s calls against the gathering of more than 100 people.  Untu’s Steve Harris pointed out that it was the poorest of the poor who used the trains, and while Prasa initially planned to provide operational staff with face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers, these were subject to availability.  He said Prasa had woken up too late, and it was the people who would suffer.  The union urged Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to pause train services until 14 April.  Harris also said that while Prasa and Transnet had responded with action at corporate level, there was little to poor implementation at operational levels, which meant the pandemic would have a devastating impact on commuters.

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

Cape Town workplace cleaners taking strain over increased workload due to Covid-19 outbreak

Cape Times reports that workplace cleaners say their loads have doubled since the Covid-19 outbreak as they have to sanitise everything.  A typical day for them now includes the added responsibility of sanitising everything from door handles to window seals, teacups and fridge handles.  A cleaner who works in the Cape Town CBD spoke of what her day entailed:  “I use water and bleach for the tables, phones, computers, handles of chairs, doors and window seals.  The door handles I sanitise every 10-20 minutes, and I wash the bins after throwing them out.  It’s more work, everyone wants the place to be hygienic and we have to squeeze in everything before we leave at 4pm.”  Another CBD cleaner said she has to work quicker to be able to fit all of her added duties in:  “People come in and out of the office, you never know who has touched the handle or has been to the toilet you are cleaning. It is tiring as people are more concerned than ever before.”  Cosatu gender co-ordinator Lumka Tamboer said the federation supported places being kept properly sanitised and clean.  “However, we are not in support of employers exploiting workers on the basis that they are domestic workers, and this will expose domestic workers to chemicals that will be harmful to them.  Forcing workers to work double as they usually do is illegal and unfair labour practice.  Employers should refrain from that as it will force us as Cosatu to take action against those employers.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siphokazi Vuso at Cape Times

Second UCT staff member tests positive for Covid-19

TimesLIVE reports that after shutting its doors on Monday in the wake of a staff member testing positive for Covid-19, the University of Cape Town (UCT) confirmed on Thursday that a second positive case had been identified.  According to Elijah Moholola, speaking on behalf of UCT, the staff member “is now in self isolation for the next two weeks under supervision from the national department of health”.

Read the original of the above report by Tanya Farber at TimesLIVE

Working from home the 'new normal' due to coronavirus, but be wary of cyber security threats

TimesLIVE reports that with many companies opting to let employees work from home as a measure to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, a cyber security expert has sounded a warning about the importance of data security.  J2 Software CEO John McLoughlin warned:  “With many more workers outside the corporate boundaries, it is key to ensure compliance around data security. This includes issues like data encryption and remote backups.  The process and need for improved cyber resilience is something that requires even greater vigilance as staff move out of the business and access corporate networks remotely.”  He said unsecured home networks, default passwords and excessive social media sharing were opening holes in business cyber security.  “With many employees working from home for the first time, there will be many new problems that might not have been addressed or maybe not even thought of,” McLoughlin pointed out.  “The simple truth is that simply picking up and moving people home without looking at the risks of remote connectivity can result in even more business disruption,” he warned.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nomahlubi Jordaan at TimesLIVE. Read too, Coronavirus: The end of the office? at Financial Mail

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Government orders all clubs and restaurants to close down or scale back, at BusinessLive
  • ‘All the rooms are empty’: KwaZulu-Natal tourism reels from Covid-19 effects, at BusinessLive
  • Will coronavirus put SAA in a terminal tailspin? at BusinessLive
  • Gauteng to reduce outpatient services as coronavirus creeps in, at BusinessLive
  • State-owned properties to be used as quarantine sites, at BusinessLive


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Steel beams on truck crush cab and kill driver on Wednesday near Vereeniging

TimesLIVE reports that a 35-year-old truck driver died after the load of steel beams he was transporting shifted and crushed the driver’s cab.  ER24 spokesperson Ross Campbell said the incident happened on General Hertzog Street, Three Rivers, just outside Vereeniging on Wednesday evening.  Campbell advised that an entire truck-load of 6m steel beams had ripped through the back head of the trailer and landed on top of the cab.  The driver was found trapped and unresponsive.  Fire and rescue services extracted the driver and used a crane to lift the beams in a four-hour operation.  The driver was declared dead on the scene.

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Iavan Pijoos at TimesLIVE

Four detained and questioned after Cape Town traffic cop shot dead

News24 reports that police in Cape Town questioned four people on Wednesday after 49-year-old traffic officer, Walton van Rooyen, was shot dead during a routine traffic stop.  The four people - aged 20, 22, 32 and 36 - were detained on Tuesday afternoon.  Van Rooyen was killed in Acre Road, Kensington, allegedly by someone he arrested for disobeying the rules of the road.  "It is suspected that the traffic officer arrested a taxi driver on the corner of 5th Avenue and Voortrekker Road and was killed in his vehicle en route to the police station," police spokesperson Colonel André Traut said.  Mayor Dan Plato offered a R50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.

Read the original of the above report by Jenni Evans at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Dysfunctional Compensation Fund leaves medical professionals 'out of pocket', at News24
  • Domestic workers are no longer a compensation fund afterthought (editorial), at BusinessLive


PUBLIC SECTOR WAGE INCREASE

'A strike doesn't mean a march', says Cosatu, but Nehawu confirms it will be marching over public sector wage increase

News24 reports that trade union federation Cosatu has labelled those concerned about a planned strike by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) at the end of March as disingenuous.  "Those now raising concerns and speaking for workers are generally silent when it comes to workers' plights.  Workers are the most exposed," said Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.  He added that Cosatu supported the union's "big fight" against the government over cuts to the public sector wage bill.  Nehawu decided on the strike after the government indicated at a special meeting of the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council on Tuesday that it would not be increasing the salaries of workers on 1 April as stipulated in a three-year collective agreement struck in 2018.  Ntshalintshali remarked that a strike did not necessarily institute marching.  He explained further as follows:  "They speak of mobilising, it doesn't spell out how or what they will do on that day.  Cosatu will not expose members to the coronavirus. Whatever action, whether through a total stay away or coming in and doing sit-ins or even coming in for work and doing a go slow … action can be taken in different ways."  Ntshalintshali accused people, like the DA's Leon Schreiber, of not caring that workers were compromised in their day-to-day roles.  Schreiber had indicated he would write to Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu, asking him to instruct the union to cancel the march.  However, Nehawu general-secretary Zola Saphetha denied the union was considering demonstrating differently.  "Truth of the matter is, we are going to march on the 30 March to Pretoria," he stated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tshidi Madia at News24


RESTRUCTURING / COMPANY JOB CUTS

Massmart announces closure of non-performing stores, is in talks with labour to mitigate job losses

Reuters reports that Massmart announced on Thursday that it had decided to close all of its non-performing stores, as cash-strapped consumers battle with high unemployment, modest wage increases and higher average fuel and utility prices.  Massmart, majority-owned by Walmart, said management would close trading at 23 Dion Wired Stores on 19 March and would decide whether to cease trading at 11 Masscash stores.  The company indicated that it would continue talks with labour unions on measures to mitigate job losses and look at moving affected workers into vacant roles in other stores “where practical and reasonable”.

Read the original of the above report by Tanisha Heiberg and Nqobile Dludla at Moneyweb


STAFFING / TERMINATIONS

Two senior Comair executives depart

BusinessLive reports that Comair, the operator of low-cost airline kulula.com and British Airways (BA) in SA, announced on Tuesday that two of its senior executives were leaving the company.  Comair said in a statement that it was "rightsizing the group and refreshing its executive team in an orderly and carefully considered process".  It announced that Glenn Orsmond, the head of airlines, which is the company’s largest division, had accepted a retrenchment package.  He has already left the company and would not be replaced, so his position has become redundant.  Operations director Martin Louw has taken early retirement.  Louw — a former pilot, training captain, fleet captain, chief pilot and flight operations director — had been with Comair since July 1996.  Comair advised that Orsmond and Louw would cease to be members of the company’s board.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siseko Njobeni at BusinessLive

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page