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, 1 April 2020.


TOP STORY – CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

UIF benefits for workers affected by Covid-19 to be paid out through bargaining councils and firms during lockdown

BusinessLive reports that the government is putting measures in place for payment of unemployment insurance benefits to workers affected by Covid-19 through their companies and bargaining councils.  Some two weeks ago, employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi announced that the government would use the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to ease the burden on employees and employers during the coronavirus pandemic.  The minister also said at the time that distressed companies would receive a period of reprieve from UIF contributions and would be helped to avoid layoffs through the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme.  On Tuesday, Nxesi said because the labour centres could not deal with the “millions of individual claims” during this period, “we have put in place systems to pay out UIF benefits through companies, sectoral associations and bargaining councils”.  Last week, the clothing manufacturing bargaining council announced that parties in the sector had reached a “groundbreaking agreement” that would allow workers to receive their salaries during the lockdown period.  Accordingly, payment to the industry’s 80,000 workers would be made up of UIF monies and employers funds, while the bargaining council would be the institution for the distribution of payments to workers through company payroll systems.  Nxesi appealed to other sectors including the banking industry “to agree to this arrangement”, as he wanted to move away from the traditional model of claiming through the labour centres.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Luyolo Mkentane at BusinessLive. See too, How UIF benefits will work, on page 4 of The Star of 1 April 2020

New lockdown rules let taxis carry usual number of passengers, provided they wear masks

SowetanLive reports that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has amended regulations governing public transport during the lockdown to extend taxi operating hours and allow them to carry up to 100% of their passenger capacity — provided passengers wear masks.  The changes were published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday.  Taxi associations, upset at the financial implications of running half-empty vehicles, threatened a shutdown earlier in the week.  Essential services workers and the elderly, needing transport to collect social grants, were left stranded in parts of the country when taxis refused to operate.  The gazetted amendments state, amongst other things, that public transport will be permitted to ferry essential-services workers from 5am to 10am and from 4pm to 8pm.  During the lockdown period minibuses will be allowed to carry 70% of their maximum licensed passenger seating capacity — if passengers have no face masks.  Taxis were previously restricted to carrying 50% of capacity.  Vehicles can now operate at 100% capacity “on condition that all passengers are wearing masks”.  Santaco spokesperson Theo Malele said the association welcomed the new regulations.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nonkululeko Njilo at SowetanLive. Read too, Mbalula avoids strike in taxi industry by relaxing minibus restrictions, at The Citizen

Ga-Rankuwa health fieldworkers call for protective gear against Covid-19

Pretoria News reports that health fieldworkers looking after the frail and elderly residents of Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria, have pleaded with the government to supply them with protective gear to help keep them safe while working in the community.  Sinah Masilo, a health fieldworker stationed at the Phedisong Clinic in zone one, said even though they understood the need for them to continue working despite the lockdown, they were dismayed that their safety needs were being ignored.  Masilo said all 42 field workers she was working with were still going out to deliver chronic medication and assist with the other health needs of the elderly on a day to day basis, but they had no gloves or masks to work with.  “These workers don’t have wipes, sanitisers, gloves or masks to work with and no one has been able to give us guidelines on how we are going to continue working.  Instead, we’re being told to keep the work going and give health talks to the people.  When you walk into the clinic all the nursing staff are protected and safe.  But when we ask them to give us some of those supplies to keep us safe they tell us that they have nothing.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Goitsemang Tlhabye at Pretoria News

Employers can’t force workers to take annual leave during lockdown, says labour minister

Independent News reports that Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi’s department has received numerous complaints about employers attempting to shift the financial burden of the 21-day lockdown onto employees.  Nxesi said that this was being done by various means, including insisting that workers used their annual leave allocation during this period.  He advised that employers could not force employees to take their annual leave and that they should rather “negotiate with staff” on the matter:  “This is a unique situation that requires all of us to act in a manner that promotes social solidarity.”  Other workers have complained they were being forced to take unpaid leave during the lockdown.  On Tuesday, Nxesi reiterated that the government had made funds available to businesses to mitigate some of the losses experienced due to the shutdown.  “As a department we have issued a directive explaining the process to follow and the kind of benefits employees will be entitled to under the Unemployment Insurance Fund.  We have also announced a national Covid-19 Benefit Fund that the UIF has put in place as an instrument to mitigate effects the layoff of workers during the lockdown.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lou-Anne Daniels at Independent News

New virus, old wounds, as frontline Covid-19 workers in Gauteng demand better pay

News24 reports that community health workers could soon be on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus without the masks and other protective gear they need to stay healthy, says the secretary of the Gauteng Community Health Care Forum Tshepo Matoko.  Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku announced early in March that the province would train 1,000 community health workers to trace the close contacts of coronavirus patients.  But the call to action has been met with some backlash from unions and health workers who say they have been risking their lives for too long with little pay.  Community health workers across Gauteng have already started reporting shortages of protective gear, including a lack of respirator masks.  A team of 48 community health workers in a Gauteng clinic were apparently given no masks to protect them, just one 750 ml bottle of hand sanitiser to share.  Community health workers have long fought the health department to be made permanent employees.  Presently, community health workers around the country have one year agreements with the health department, which means that they get a monthly stipend of R3,500, but don’t get other benefits like medical aid or pension.”  In emails to Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku, Matoko has demanded that all community health workers be made employees of the health department, and that they must be given equipment to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Joan van Dyk at News24

Fraudulent essential-service permits revoked

The Citizen reports that the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) has cancelled fraudulent certificates allowing companies to trade as essential services during the 21-day national lockdown.  “Businesses in the CIPC database that are not eligible to continue operations during the lockdown have had their certificates cancelled and will be handed over to the South African Police Service for investigation and potential prosecution,” said the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) on Tuesday.  The fraudulent issuing of the certificates was flagged during the course of the review of the essential service list of applications.  “The CIPC has established that certain companies not designated as essential services have either fraudulently or negligently applied on the Bizportal website,” the dti indicated.  It is a criminal offence for any business to continue operating during the lockdown period if it is not providing an essential service, as defined in the applicable regulations and direction, unless such business can be operated using work-from-home arrangements.  It is also a criminal offence for any business to misrepresent the nature of its operations in order to obtain a CIPC certificate.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard on page 6 of The Citizen of 1 April 2020

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Gloves, masks and protective gowns are Solidarity Fund’s priority, at Moneyweb
  • Oppenheimer family makes second R1bn contribution, this time for Solidarity Fund, at Moneyweb
  • Government to start using technology to trace Covid-19 carriers, at SowetanLive
  • Health workers begin testing Alex residents for Covid-19 virus, at HeraldLive
  • Government spells out support for spaza shops during lockdown, at BusinessLive


PUBLIC SECTOR WAGE INCREASES

Nehawu slams government over non-payment from Wednesday of salary increases

Independent News reports that the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has slammed the government for blaming the Covid-19 pandemic and the country’s economic woes for its plans not to increase the salaries of its 1.3 million employees from Wednesday.  Meanwhile, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) said it was continuing to look for solutions, including holding more engagements with labour to try and deal with present realities, but there would be no short cuts and options to deal with the deadlock were extremely limited.  DPSA Minister Senzo Mchunu commented:  ”We want to reiterate that government remains committed to the implementation of the 2018 wage agreement notwithstanding the aforesaid difficulties; at stake is how to do it, and this matters most.”  However, Nehawu expressed its unhappiness with the government, saying it was clutching at straws in trying to explain its inability to pay workers what was due to them and in the process using blackmail to absolve itself.  Nehawu has threatened the government with major and unprecedented consequences if it does not implement the 2018 agreement, which is in its final year, and also accused it of undermining collective bargaining processes.  ”We will be mobilising our members for the mother of all fights against the onslaught by the government,” said the union, while reminding the state that the national lockdown was not perpetual.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Loyiso Sidimba at Independent News. Read too, Unions warn over promised wage hike during lockdown, at Independent News

DA calls for Senzo Mchunu to be fired as DPSA minister if he fails to cut the public wage bill

The Citizen reports that the Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire the minister for public service and administration, Senzo Mchunu, if he fails to cut the public wage bill by at least R37.8 billion in the 2020/21 financial year.  DA MP Dr Leon Schreiber said in a statement on Wednesday:  “Mchunu was issued a clear instruction by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni during his February budget: cut the public wage bill by R37.8 billion in 2020/21, by R54.9 billion in 2021/22, and by R67.5 billion in 2022/23, totalling R160.2 billion.”  Indicating that the DA had consistently supported Mboweni’s call for fiscal responsibility, Schreiber went on to state:  “That is why we have repeatedly submitted credible and costed proposals to the government on how to implement the cuts in a way that grants inflation-linked increases to all frontline service delivery heroes while freezing the bloated salaries of managers and administrators, and reducing the 29,000 millionaire managers in the public service by a third”  Noting that Mchunu had on Tuesday released a statement indicating that “government remains committed to the implementation of the 2018 wage agreement”, Schreiber said that if Mchunu was implying that he intended to ignore Mboweni’s instruction to cut the wage bill, he would be committing fiscal treason against the people of SA.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at The Citizen. Read too, State is committed to upping salaries, says Senzo Mchunu, at BusinessLive


MINING LABOUR

Mantashe finds coal mines in various states of readiness to deal with Covid-19

Mining Weekly reports that Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday conducted unannounced visits to three Mpumalanga coal mines which supply coal to power utility Eskom.  The mines were Glencore’s Impunzi colliery, Exxaro Resources' Matla Coal colliery and Seriti’s Kriel colliery.  Mantashe used the visits to assess the implementation of the directive and guiding principles issued by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to all mines on how to manage the risks associated with Covid-19 at an operational level.  All mines were required to conduct a risk-based assessment covering all workings at mines, reduce numbers of employees transported on common transport per shift and, where applicable, reduce the number of shifts worked per day.  The Minister found that the mines were not at the same level in terms of their state of readiness to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.  He encouraged all mines to work together, as well as with labour unions, to share best practice and ensure their systems were complementary, to proactively manage risks beyond each mine.  At the end of March, there had been three confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the mining and energy sectors, one each in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.

Read the original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly


LABOUR MARKET / JOBS

Formal sector jobs grew marginally in last quarter of 2019, but that was before Covid-19

BusinessLive reports that Stats SA data revealed on Tuesday that annual growth in formal sector jobs rose marginally in the final quarter of 2019, driven by growth in community services, trade and business services.  But the picture was likely to worsen in the year ahead, warned economists, as SA faces the consequences of a 21-day lockdown needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  During the fourth quarter of 2019, SA’s economy contracted by 1.4%, slipping into its second recession in as many years.  Jobs rose by 18,000, or just 0.2%, on an annual basis, down from the 1% recorded in the previous quarter.  Three sectors — community services, trade, and business services — saw an increase in jobs numbers, while the remaining five sectors recorded losses.  Total employment increased by 16,000 or 0.2% quarter on quarter.  Both the quarterly and annual figures showed sharp increases in part-time employment.  Part-time jobs account for 90% of all formal sector work, according to Stats SA.  On an annual basis, gross earnings rose by R8bn or 5.2%, including both base salaries and bonuses.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lynley Donnelly at BusinessLive. Read too, More people employed in fourth quarter, on page 9 of Business Report of 1 April 2020


RETRENCHMENTS / COMPANY JOB CUTS

SAA and unions to resume talks over retrenchments

Moneyweb reports that the SA Airways (SAA) business rescue practitioners (BRPs) and labour were set to resume consultations on retrenchments on Wednesday.  But, there was confusion as to whether the CCMA’s senior commissioner tasked with facilitating the meetings would continue to do so during the national lockdown period.  At the same time the BRPs, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, were facing resistance from the two largest unions at SAA, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca), which had not agreed to continue with discussions over video-conferencing and had accused the BRPs of not engaging in good faith.  SAA has eight labour unions including the SA Airways Pilots’ Association, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, the National Transport Movement and Solidarity, which represent the vast majority of the airline’s workers and had agreed to continue with consultations.  The BRPs have received an extension until 29 May to submit their final business rescue plan.  Another crucial deadline is 8 May, when the BRPs will need to conclude the 60-day consultation process as provisioned in the law.  This will enable them to give notices to employees whose contracts will be terminated from 10 May.  Over 4,000 workers will be affected by this process.  Another possible scenario is an agreement to implement a rotational retrenchment scheme where “non-key employees” will work on a part-time basis and won’t immediately be paid their full salaries.

Read the full original of the informative report in the above regard by Tebogo Tshwane at Moneyweb


BUSINESS RESCUE / LIQUIDATIONS

Unions oppose business rescue practitioners’ bid to liquidate SA Express

Business Report writes that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) are at loggerheads with the government over the application by business rescue practitioners (BRPs) to liquidate SA Express.  In a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday, the unions said the regional airline was being destroyed by the government’s lack of commitment to save state-owned entities (SOEs), especially those in aviation.  SA Express was last month placed under involuntary business rescue.  In court papers, the BRPs, Phahlani Mkhombo and Daniel Terblanche, accused the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) of interfering and undermining their efforts to restructure the airline.  They claimed it was not their intention to file for liquidation, but they had no choice after the government failed to co-operate and give confidence to creditors.  The DPE, however, refuted these allegations, and said the BRPs’ plan lacked a credible business case.  SA Express suspended its operations on 18 March, until further notice.  This resulted in the airline scrambling to pay March salaries and asking for help from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, despite not having made employee contributions since it was placed under business rescue.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siphelele Dludla at Business Report


EDCON IN CRISIS

Tragic job losses of over 100,000 on the cards for Edcon

Moneyweb writes that the prospect of more than 100,000 people losing their jobs was grimly tagged by a conference call between Edcon CEO Grant Pattison and suppliers just hours before SA entered its coronavirus lockdown.  Moreover, the 100,000 job losses will be just a part of the enormous but unknown price that will be paid, largely by the poor and vulnerable, in the coming months.  But the grim reality was that Edcon was a case of dead man walking into the coronavirus lockdown and was in no condition to survive even the very early stages of the virus.  During the conference call Pattison told suppliers Edcon only had sufficient liquidity to pay salaries which were deemed a priority and that the company was unable to honour any other accounts during the lockdown period.  The dramatic statements confirmed speculation that the 90-year old retailer had seen little improvement in operations since the “rescue” that was bedded down less than one year ago.  In June 2019, Edcon put to bed a R2.7 billion rescue package funded to the tune of R1.2 billion by the Public Investment Corporation, with the bulk of the remainder in the form of rent reductions and cash commitments.  Now, Pattison told suppliers that management was continuing to look at all options and “there may be some tough recommendations to be made to the board after the lockdown, including considering business rescue.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Ann Crotty at Moneyweb


APPOINTMENTS

Paul Hanratty to take the helm at Sanlam during a critical time for SA

BusinessLive reports that Sanlam, Africa’s biggest life insurer, has appointed a former executive from its rival Old Mutual as its new CEO, replacing the retiring Ian Kirk.  Paul Hanratty, who has been a non-executive director at Sanlam since 2017, retired as COO at its biggest rival in SA in 2016, and was also CEO of Old Mutual’s local unit during its phase as a London-listed company.  Hanratty takes over at a time when Sanlam needs to navigate a weak economy in SA, which remains its largest market, where business and consumer confidence had plunged even before the coronavirus outbreak.  “Paul has an impressive track record having managed large financial services businesses very successfully,” Sanlam said in a statement.  Sanlam also appointed Abigail Mukhuba as group financial director from October.  Elias Masilela, a former CEO of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), was named non-executive chair.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Karl Gernetzky at BusinessLive. Read too, Sanlam appoints new CEO, to take over by July, at Moneyweb

 


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