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 roundup of weekend news, see
summaries of our selection of South African
labour-related stories that appeared since
Friday, 27 March 2020.


TOP STORY – CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

Ramaphosa writes to Parliament, reveals 2,820 soldiers could be on SA's streets until 26 June

News24 reports that members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) could be patrolling SA’s well beyond the current 21-day lockdown period.  That was indicated in a letter President Cyril Ramaphosa sent on Wednesday to the speaker of the National Assembly, informing members of Parliament of the deployment of SANDF members.  The president disclosed that 2,820 soldiers had been deployed in all nine provinces.  The president is constitutionally required to give Parliament notice of the deployment of the SANDF, including reasons for the action, the period and location of deployment, as well as the number of people who will be involved.  In his letter, Ramaphosa advised that the army's deployment would be from 26 March to 26 June.  On Thursday, while addressing SANDF personnel, the president "ordered" the army to go out and serve the people of the country with respect and responsibility, urging soldiers not to be heavy handed when dealing with citizens.

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

SANDF calls in Reserve Force to assist in coronavirus fight

News24 reports that the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has called up members of its Reserve Force to assist in the fight against the coronavirus.  Spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said on Saturday that such members would complement SANDF members already deployed and was in line with the National Disaster Management Act which provides that the defence force must release its personnel to a national Organ of State for rendering of emergency services.  He explained further that the SA Military Health Service had similarly called up Reserve Force doctors, nurses, operational emergency care practitioners together with teams to work with other health practitioners in various fields.  Dlamini appealed to civilian employers to release their staff members called up for Reserve Force service.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nhlanhla Jele at News24

NGO challenges constitutionality of lockdown, files Constitutional Court papers

News24 reports that a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has filed papers in the Constitutional Court seeking leave to challenge President Cyril Ramaphosa's order that the country should go into lockdown for 21 days to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).  The Hola Bon Renaissance (HBR) Foundation cited Ramaphosa and others as respondents.  It wants the court to declare that Ramaphosa violated the Constitution and abused his powers when he implemented the lockdown.  It also claims the president is violating the rights of South Africans to human dignity, freedom of movement, freedom of trade, occupation and profession, and access to healthcare, food and water.  HBR wants the court to interdict the president from continuing with the lockdown and to declare that the coronavirus "poses no threat to the country and its people".  The state attorney's office has indicated that the state will oppose the application.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Chantall Presence at News24

Health Minister concerned by number of health workers diagnosed with Covid-19

ANA reports that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Saturday noted with concern a number of confirmed Covid-19 cases of health workers who worked both in the private and public hospitals.  He said as follows:  “This includes doctor and nurses.  We mention this because health workers are in the frontline of this battle.  They are exposed not only to their families but to the patients who they are meant to treat."  He added that amongst the confirmed Covid-19 cases involving health workers was a medical doctor in Limpopo who tested positive after he had travelled abroad on holiday and started experiencing symptoms on his return.  In Mpumalanga, another medical doctor who also travelled abroad returned to the province with symptoms which emerged a few days after he returned.  Mkhize said in Free State, they had received a report that three doctors, one nurse and one neurophysicist had tested positive for Covid-19, while six medical doctors in Gauteng had been infected.  "All these health workers are in a good medical condition with most of them having mild or no symptoms.  It is only one doctor in the Free State aged 70, who is in ICU.  It must be emphasised that none of these health workers were infected by patients that they were treating," Mkhiza advised.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Independent News. Read too, Free State doctor in ICU after contracting coronavirus, at News24. And also, Lack of best protective gear a worry for state medical staff, on page 2 of The Sunday Independent of 29 march 2020

UIF offices inundated on Thursday as the reality of the 21-day lockdown set in

News24 reports that the reality of a 21-day lockdown hit many hard on Thursday as they rushed to queue for unemployment benefits, ID documents, birth certificates and other essentials.  The Cape Town Labour Centre was inundated as hundreds stood queuing to hear whether they would get some relief from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) after being told their places of work would shut down and they would not be paid.  "I’ve been here since half past five in the morning just for UIF and I’m worried whether I am going to get this money or not.  It seems like they’re ignoring us because no one came to us to explain, and the line is not moving," said a frantic restaurant worker.  Many travelled from outside of Cape Town to the CBD as their local centres were crammed to capacity and unable to serve everyone.  Government has allocated R30 billion to a special National Disaster Benefit Fund, which will pay UIF benefits for up to three months for those who have lost income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  The monthly payment will be up to R3,500.  A UIF spokesperson advised that all their regional offices would be closed during the lockdown.  Only staff at the head office would be working.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Chantall Presence at News24

UIF claims to take ‘a bit longer’

The Star reports that some workers who are forced to stay home because of the nationwide lockdown might also face poverty, as payments from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) might not be processed on time.  Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) spokesperson Thembinkosi Mkhaliphi advised on Thursday that private companies were not obliged to pay salaries upfront.  Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi on Wednesday announced the UIF would compensate the workers affected by the lockdown through the Illness and Reduced Work Time benefits.  Mkhaliphi said it was understandable that during the lockdown companies would experience cash-flow problems as there would be no production.  He indicated that even though the DEL had appealed to companies to approach the UIF for assistance, they were not obliged to do so.  “Those workers should on their own apply for UIF but it’s going to take a bit longer to claim the money from the UIF,” he advised.  The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said while it supported the lockdown, the government did not adequately consult with the union before implementing the measures that would affect workers.  Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said:  “We demand and call on the government to ensure that workers across all sectors of the economy are guaranteed full pay during this 21-day shutdown.  We reject the notion that employers use workers’ wages to pay them through paid leave.”  Thulani Nkosi of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) said domestic workers should also be paid because the lockdown was not their fault.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bongani Hans at Independent News

Cosatu seeks PIC funds for coronavirus stimulus plan

Bloomberg reports that Cosatu is pushing the government to tap state institutions for a stimulus plan to combat the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.  The labour federation wants state companies such as the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which manages government pension investments, to provide relief to hard-hit industries including hospitality, manufacturing and mining.  It also wants private companies to contribute.  "We want them to mobilise a public- and private-funded stimulus plan that can target heavily affected economic sectors," Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks indicated.  Talks are taking place with business and government representatives at the National Economic Development and Labour Council.  Government and business representatives have already agreed to a Cosatu proposal that money from the Unemployment Insurance Fund be used to compensate workers who are temporarily laid off.  Other demands include an increase in the value of welfare grants over the next three months and for commercial banks to defer debt repayments.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Fin24

Transport department gets tough to ensure lockdown regulations are adhered to

News24 reports that the national department of transport is stepping up measures applicable during the 21-day lockdown and has put in place measures to ensure that the regulations, which are aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, are adhered to.  The additional measures are the deployment of traffic officials in joint operations at boundaries between Mpumalanga and Gauteng, Gauteng and Limpopo, the Free State and Mpumalanga, and Gauteng and the North West; at taxi ranks across the country; and on major freeways, primary routes and secondary routes.  According to a departmental statement, a potentially volatile situation might arise at the closed Lebombo and Beitbridge border posts where passengers have refused to turn back.  In respect of taxis, the statement indicated:  "Traffic law enforcement had to close the entrance to Bara taxi rank as some taxi drivers were taking chances after the regulated hours."  Taxis are only allowed to transport people during certain hours in the morning and afternoon and have a passenger limit in the interests of maintaining social distancing.  Only passengers allowed to travel for essential purposes are permitted to use public transport.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nonhlanhla Jele at News24. Read too, Public and private travel restrictions applicable during the Covid-19 lockdown, at BusinessLive. And also, Transport department reconsidering lockdown regulations on taxis, cargo, licensing, at News24. As well as, Lockdown: Public transport hours extended for social grant recipients, at News24

Employers likely to default on retirement fund payments amid Covid-19 lockdown, regulator cautions

BusinessLive reports that the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA) is preparing for a number of distressed employers to default on their contributions to retirement funds due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.  It has urged funds to register necessary amendments to their rules to deal with such non-payments.  The FSCA issued a statement on Friday saying the financial challenges brought about by the crisis meant certain employers and employees would be unable to pay their full or, in some cases, any contributions to their retirement funds.  The FSCA’s Olano Makhubela commented that it was difficult to tell how widespread the issue would be, as the FSCA had not yet received actual requests for rule amendments and some funds already had the necessary rules to deal with defaults.  However, the FSCA had received several queries from organisations such as the Institute of Retirement Funds Africa and large institutions, which indicated that employers were experiencing financial challenges.  In terms of the Pension Funds Act (PFA), employers are liable to pay full contributions due to retirement funds by no later than seven days after the end of the month in which they are due.  In cases in which employers have made formal requests to their retirement funds for the suspension or reduction of contributions, the board of trustees of the fund must consider the employer’s circumstances and apply the fund rules.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Neesa Moodley at BusinessLive

MultiChoice sets aside R80m to cover salaries of crew, cast and creatives in production industry during lockdown

BusinessLive reports that pay TV operator MultiChoice has set aside R80m for salaries and wages for professionals working in the production industry.  SA businesses, except those offering essential services, have stopped operations to adhere to the national lockdown imposed by the government to combat the spread of coronavirus.  On Friday, MultiChoice said it aimed to safeguard the incomes of cast, crew and creatives, as well as the sustainability of production houses.  The company said the money would cover salaries for March and April, “by when, hopefully, we will have the worst of the disruptions behind us”.  In addition, MultiChoice said it would also pay freelancers at SuperSport Productions, who were currently unable to work due to the suspension of sport because of the national lockdown.  The group added that contractors at its broadcast technology functions would also be compensated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mudiwa Gavaza at BusinessLive. Read too, MultiChoice avails funds for salaries of crew, cast and creatives during lockdown, at City Press. And also, Covid-19-affected artists will be paid, says arts council boss, at City Press

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Johannesburg clinics will be operational during 21-day lockdown, at News24
  • SABC employee in Northern Cape tests positive for coronavirus, offices in Kimberley closed, at News24
  • Motsepe family donates R1bn to help poor fight Covid-19, at BusinessLive
  • Wine industry warns of collapse if harvesting, exporting halted, Business Report
  • Covid-19 could be Edcon death blow, at BusinessLive (paywall access only)
  • Aviation sector will collapse without state intervention, at City Press
  • Lockdown ‘hell’ for sex workers, at City Press
  • Some sex workers move online as SA heads into coronavirus lockdown, at News24


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Cape Town paramedics attacked on Saturday, allegedly by patient’s family

EWN reports that yet another ambulance crew has been attacked in the Western Cape.  Two paramedics responded to a call in Surrey Estate on Saturday afternoon and they were assaulted, allegedly by the patient's family.  Apparently, relatives insisted that the patient be transported to Groote Schuur Hospital instead of the nearest facility which was Heideveld Community Health Centre.  The provincial health department's Deanna Bessick said as per standard protocol, patients should be taken to the nearest medical facility  She added:  “The officials were walking towards the ambulance to make a call to the communications centre to enquire if they may transport the patient to Groote Schuur when the family became aggressive and began cursing, shoving and hitting them."  No serious injuries were reported.  Ten attacks on EMS staff have so far been recorded in the province since the start of this year.

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Lizell Persens at EWN


PUBLIC SECTOR WAGE NEGOTIATIONS / STATE WAGE BILL

Public-sector unions reject new government 4.4% wage offer, threaten legal action

BusinessLive reports that as time runs out for the negotiations, public-sector unions have rejected the government’s new wage offer for the 2020/2021 financial year.  New salaries are due to take effect on 1 April.  On Friday, Mugwena Maluleke, chief negotiator for union federation Cosatu’s public-sector unions, and Reuben Maleka of the Public Servants Association (PSA), said the government’s offer had been rejected.  According to the unions, the government proposed that employees who fell within levels 1 and 8 should receive an inflation-related increase of 4.4% for 2020/2021, while those on higher levels should receive no increases.  To be able to fund the 4.4% increases, the government proposed using the funds that would have been used to give 1.5% performance-related increases in 2021/2022.  Maluleke said the Cosatu unions have agreed to continue negotiating with the government in an attempt to convince it that it was not in the best interest of collective bargaining to renege on the multi-term agreement signed in 2018, and that the agreement has to be honoured.  He also said Cosatu was in the process of obtaining legal advice on how to take the matter forward as time was not on its side, as people would be paid on 15 April.  Maleka said the PSA was set to put the government on terms in a lawyer’s letter to demand that it implement the agreement signed in 2018.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Claudi Mailovich at BusinessLive


MINING

Hard to assess effect of lockdown on mines, says Minerals Council economist

BusinessLive writes that focusing on just one industry, namely mining, many are trying to ascertain what the cost of the three-week coronavirus shutdown will be and the ramifications.  Henk Langenhoven, chief economist at the Minerals Council SA (MCSA – previously called the Chamber of Miners) noted it was an almost impossible calculation and he warned against simplistic and alarmist conclusions.  “It’s a very nuanced situation and it hinges on so many factors.  I’d encapsulate this uncertainty by looking at production between the different companies, sales, which come from stocks or from processing, whether it can be exported and then what the global demand and prices are for various commodities,” he commented.  The council is working on data to put reliable numbers into the market.  The Department of Mineral Resources & Energy has allowed a fair amount of leeway for mines that produce critical minerals such as platinum-group metals and which have furnaces and refineries that could be damaged if shut down to keep operating.  Coal mines supplying Eskom as well as Sasol continue to operate at reduced levels.  Gold miners have shut their labour-intensive, deep-level mines.  Another factor is how companies compensate the 450,000 employees in the sector, with some opting to pay basic salaries and continue contributions towards pensions and medical aids during the lockdown.  Marginal mines could opt for different remuneration systems.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Allan Seccombe at BusinessLive


WORKPLACE CONDITIONS

Durban factory owner locks in 14 employees to produce masks for Covid-19 crisis

Independent News reports that a Durban-based factory has been caught forcing employees to work overtime and sleep at the premises in order to produce masks needed for the Covid-19 crisis.  The discovery was made on Sunday by inspectors from the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Consumer Protection Unit of the economic development, tourism and environmental affairs department.  According to the department’s MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, someone blew the whistle and the inspectors promptly swooped on the business.  The owner of the factory was arrested as the workers were allegedly subjected to inhumane working conditions.  The 14 employees were mainly from Kwamashu, Ntuzuma and Umlazi townships within Durban.  Inspectors from the Department of Employment and Labour are reportedly conducting an investigation in relation to the violation of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Occupational and Safety Act.  Dube-Ncube also voiced displeasure that security guards employed by KZN Crime Extinguishers to guard the factory harassed and pointed automatic rifles at the inspectors and she has since asked law enforcement agencies to investigate the company.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sihle Mavuso at Independent News


BUSINESS RESUE

Government still deciding whether or not to oppose SA Express liquidation

BusinessLive reports that the government is deciding whether or not it should oppose the court application by the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) of SA Express to have the ailing state-owned airline liquidated.  BRPs Phahlani Mkhombo and Daniel Terblanche lodged an application in the High Court in Pretoria on 25 March, asking that SA Express be placed into provisional liquidation.  They also asked the court to order that the business rescue process be discontinued.  The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) on Sunday said it would decide after studying the liquidation application.  SA Express suspended operations just over a week ago due to the Covid-19 crisis and the 21-day national lockdown.  It is expected to be among the first organisations to apply to the UIF temporary employee relief scheme (Ters) for assistance, under the expedited Covid-19 benefit.  The airline did not pay salaries for March, making it the first state-owned entity (SOE) to run out of cash.  Terblanche indicated that according to SA Express’s own financial information, it owed creditors more than R2bn.  He said he and Mkhombo had approached commercial banks and other development finance institutions in an effort to secure financing, however, the banks indicated their reluctance to provide any further funding, even with the support of a government guarantee.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Genevieve Quintal at BusinessLive


VACANCIES / RECRUITMENT

PIC has identified Dan Matjila’s replacement as CEO, says chair Khoza

BusinessLive reports that the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has identified a candidate to replace Dan Matjila as CEO, according to chairperson Reuel Khoza.  This as the state-owned asset manager pushes ahead with the process of restructuring and recovery from governance failures identified in the Mpati commission report.  "We have identified an individual that we think is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the candidates, and we have recommended this person to the government for their endorsement," Khoza said.  The PIC, which manages more than R2-trillion, mainly for government workers, has also advertised for the roles of chief investment officer, chief technology officer, chief operations officer, and a chief ethics officer.  The commission released damning findings two weeks ago on malfeasance and impropriety at the corporation.  The board has assembled a task team of external specialists to assist with the restructuring ahead of the arrival of the new CEO.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Warren Thompson at BusinessLive. Read too, Former PIC boss Dan Matjila wants to challenge findings of Mpati inquiry, at Fin24


PRICES

Petrol price set to drop by largest decrease on record in April

BusinessLive reports that the Automobile Association (AA) said on Friday that SA motorists should see the largest fuel price decrease on record from 1 April, when unleaded petrol could see a drop of about R2 per litre.  Oil prices have crashed in 2020 due to a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which has more than offset a weaker rand, while demand for oil has also fallen due to the economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 virus.  Unleaded 95 petrol is set for a R2.18/l drop, with 93 set to decrease by R2.05.  Both grades of diesel are expected to fall about R1.65/l, with illuminating paraffin down R1.98.  “Notwithstanding the addition of the 25c for the fuel levies, the expected decreases will bring the country’s fuel prices to levels last seen in late 2017 and early 2018,” the AA said.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Karl Gernetzky at BusinessLive

 


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