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, 26 June 2020.


TOP STORY – HEALTHCARE CRISIS

Public healthcare in the Eastern Cape has collapsed, according to doctors and healthcare workers

City Press reports that according to doctors and healthcare workers employed in the Eastern Cape, the province’s public healthcare system has collapsed.  A distraught doctor commented:  “We are sitting with a situation where patients are lying in the corridors of hospitals like Livingstone in Port Elizabeth and are dying, and there may soon be a similar situation Dora Nginza in Zwide … It is literally a ‘survival of the fittest’ situation.  It is awful.”  Another doctor claimed the maternity unit of Dora Nginza hospital was close to collapse.  The doctors asserted that nothing had come of promises made by the Eastern Cape department of health, which weeks ago pledged to appoint more personnel.  The same apparently went for its promise to avail staff of additional personal protective equipment.  There are only two state ambulances currently servicing the whole of Port Elizabeth and there is allegedly a major shortage of basic medical necessities.  One of the greatest challenges is apparently the large number of healthcare workers who have had to go into quarantine in case they test positive for Covid-19.  This situation comes amid warnings from experts that the number of Covid-19 cases in the Eastern Cape could double within the next 10 days.  However, the province is currently in the process of finalising a service level contract to work in conjunction with Netcare, as has already been done in the Western Cape and Gauteng, which would help.  A spokesperson for the Eastern Cape health department said he was “unaware” of the problems in hospitals, and that nobody had spoken to him about the matter.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Suzanne Venter at City Press

Covid-19 drives private health sector to the brink with huge decline in patient numbers in hospitals and private practices

City Press reports that a new healthcare framework has been proposed to resuscitate the ailing private healthcare sector, which has been dealt a huge blow by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic as patient numbers in hospitals and private practices have plummeted.  The framework aims to keep private practices afloat as well as sustain the unified public-private response to the pandemic that has been envisioned.  The Progressive Health Forum (PHF) – an advocacy network of clinicians and health activists – has mobilised 15,000 private doctors, specialists and allied health professionals to meet the Covid-19 challenge.  The initiative seeks to ensure that the private sector adds its weight to the Covid-19 response by providing human and healthcare resources, without private practitioners worrying about their practices going under – a situation that is currently at play.  It envisages a new financing framework in collaboration with the country’s four largest private medical sector associations and organisation.  The framework, developed for the PHF by Professor Alex van den Heever from Wits, has been endorsed by industry heavyweights such as the SA Medical Association (Sama), the SA Private Practitioners’ Forum (Sappf), the SA Medical and Dental Practitioners and the Independent Practitioners’ Association.  It comprises 10 features and pivots on the medical scheme funders tapping into expenditure that has already been budgeted for medical practices.  The Department of Health has been approached by each of these organisations on how they can be part of the integrated response, with mixed success.

Read the full original of the detailed report in the above regard by Vuyo Mkize at City Press


HEALTH & SAFETY

Medics at Rietvlei Hospital in KZN halt operations as fears mount over death and Covid-19 cases

Sunday Tribune reports that nurses and doctors have halted operations at Rietvlei Hospital, in Umzimkhulu in southern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), demanding that the facility be sanitised after patients and nurses tested positive for Covid-19 last week.  According to one worker, a patient who was admitted on 16 June tested positive and subsequently passed away.  The worker feared that the district hospital with over 200 patients could spread the infection in the rural area of Umzimkhulu if proactive measures were ignored.  He added that two nurses who attended to the patient also tested positive, but the ward in which the patient was treated had not been disinfected.  He claimed management refused to close the wards and disinfect the affected hospital as per the instruction from the health department.  A medical practitioner also complained about the fear brought on by the incidents, saying that it appeared from tracing that the nurses had made contact with many staff and patients.  “This has caused health workers to panic and we have decided to halt the operation of the hospital.  Until all our grievances are attended to, only emergency wards will operate because we do not feel safe.  We have had several meetings with the hospital management but they still refuse to take our advice,” he stated.

Read the full original of the detailed report in the above regard by Siboniso Mngadi at Sunday Tribune

Several ICU nurses at Linksfield Netcare in Orange Grove in Joburg test positive for Covid-19

News24 reports that several nurses at Linksfield Netcare Hospital in Orange Grove, Johannesburg, have reportedly contracted Covid-19.  According to one of those who tested positive, at least 15 had their results come back positive.  Speaking on Friday, the nurse indicated that he worked at the hospital’s ICU unit along with over 20 other colleagues and that they had decided to take voluntary tests for the virus because they were on the frontline.  By Thursday, 15 of the nurses who had taken tests were apparently positive, and they immediately went into isolation.  They are concerned about the manner in which their employer has treated them because they were told they had contracted the virus from their communities.  The nurse alleged that deep cleaning had not taken place at the facility and, while they were in isolation, nurses from agencies were outsourced to run the ICU.  He added that keeping the unit open was problematic and worrying to them because "clearly there is a problem with the ICU itself".  In response, the hospital advised that its management had taken immediate and comprehensive action to prevent the spread after a "few staff members tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day".

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sesona Ngqakamba at News24

City of Cape Town pays tribute to firefighter who died of coronavirus

News24 reports that the City of Cape Town on Friday paid tribute to one of its firefighters after he died of the coronavirus disease.  The 48-year-old divisional commander, Makosandile Mbhokhwe, died in hospital on 21 June, the City advised in a statement.  He had been based at the Fire and Rescue Service Training Academy in Epping and was a "credit" to the fire and rescue service.  Mbhokhwe was named Officer of the Year in 2018.  "This is the first staff member that the Fire and Rescue Service has lost to Covid-19, and we hope that the department will be spared any further loss of life," Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith, said.  He described Mbhokhwe as gentleman and a true officer, who led his team with "the utmost integrity".

Read the original of the above report by Jeanette Chabalala at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Hospitals not doing enough to protect high-risk staff from Covid-19, say unions, at News24
  • Locally-developed app helps beauty salons manage queues as Covid-19 lockdown measures ease, at Engineering News
  • KayaFM temporarily closes premises due to Covid-19 outbreak, at Channel24
  • Expect more positive cases in PSL, on page 23 of City Press of 28 June 2020


TERS RELIEF

Nearly a million workers wait for Covid-19 relief from UIF’s Ters scheme

BL Premium reports that technical glitches and backlogs have hobbled the government’s flagship programme to cushion the Covid-19 economic shock.  This has resulted in R4.2bn in unpaid claims and cash denied to nearly a million potentially deserving workers who haven’t had an income in three months.  The Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters), which has paid out R26bn to 5.8-million employees to date, has been hit by technical malfunction, including problems with its registration system.  Most recently, the site had to be temporarily shut down as it showed applicants’ confidential details.  According to labour minister Thulas Nxesi’s report on the UIF relief plan as of 25 June, 965,751 employees covered by 176,102 employers have not been paid because they were not found on the system.  With some employees who applied in April not yet paid, problems with the programme is as a blow to the government’s broader plan under a R500bn relief package of ensuring that businesses retain workers even when they’re reeling from lockdown restrictions.  The UIF on Friday said it was committed to ensuring that applications received in April and May that had been registered in the system would still be processed and paid once all relevant documents and information had been received.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Genevieve Quintal at BusinessLive (paywall access only)

Other internet posting(s) in this news category


MINING LABOUR

Immigration staff shortage proving bottleneck for returning migrant mine labour

Miningmx reports that the return to work of some 9,500 foreign mineworkers needed to get SA’s mines back to full production is being held up by a shortage of immigration staff at the country’s borders along with delays in getting approval from Natjoints.  The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) co-ordinates all security and law enforcement operations throughout SA and includes the police, the Defence Force and the Department of Health amongst other entities.  According to Nikisi Lesufi of the Minerals Council SA, the mines have completed all the necessary processes required by Natjoints for the return of the foreign mineworkers, but there is a continuing bottleneck at the country’s border posts which are operating on skeleton staffs.  Lesufi said the requirements involved included meeting the normal immigration rules as well as complex travel logistics.  The returning mineworkers had to have all the necessary documentation such as corporate visas and temporary residence permits to be allowed to enter SA.  Lesufi’s assessment echoes earlier comments by Harmony CEO Peter Steenkamp, who said his group did not expect a full return of their 7,000 migrant workers until the middle of July even though all approvals were in place.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Brendan Ryan at Miningmx


BUSINESS RESCUE / RESTRUCTURING

Vote on South African Airways restructuring delayed until next month

Reuters reports that on Thursday a vote on a restructuring plan for loss-making South African Airways (SAA) was delayed until next month, after some creditors and trade unions secured an adjournment after months of wrangling over the airline's future.  According to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and the SAA Pilots’ Association (Saapa), the adjournment was necessary to correct what they said were deficiencies in the plan as well as for further negotiations.  The business rescue practitioners (BRPs), who took over SAA in December after almost a decade of financial losses, published their restructuring plan two weeks ago and now expect the vote on it to take place on 14 July.  The plan involves scaling back SAA's fleet while keeping most routes intact, but it needs the government to find at least R10 billion of new funds to pay creditors, fund thousands of layoffs and restart the airline as Covid-19 travel restrictions ease.  It is not clear where those funds will come from, after the Finance Minister allocated no new money for SAA in a supplementary budget on Wednesday.  

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News. Read too, Cabinet backs SAA business rescue process, at BusinessLive

SAA staff being offered generous severance packages, averaging R580,000 each, to leave

City Press reports that SA Airways (SAA) staff are being offered extremely generous severance packages – averaging R580,000 each – at a total cost of R2.2 billion.  This would include retrospective increases and incentive bonuses, but is still not enough for several trade unions.  The offer is contained in a confidential letter that acting director-general of public works, Kgathatso Tlhakudi, sent to unions on Tuesday.  The acceptance of the severance packages is a prerequisite for the approval of SAA’s rescue plan, according to which the workforce of the airline will be cut from the current level of about 4,700 to 1,000.  Creditors were meant to vote on the rescue plan on Thursday, but it was postponed after unions and creditors said the plan was deficient.  They are expected to meet again on 14 July.  Although the business rescue practitioners have indicated that government is ready to finance the plan, it is still not clear where the money will come from.  An additional R10 billion would be needed to successfully fund the offer.  Trade union Solidarity has accepted the packages, but Numsa, the SA Cabin Crew Association and the SA Airways Pilots’ Association are still of the opinion that the airline is not offering enough money.  According to the letter, pilots will get on average R1.9 million each, while cabin crew will get R352,000.  Cargo and operations personnel will get R351,000, those who work on the simulators R476,000, office personnel R379,000, and management and management specialists R477,000.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Antoinette Slabbert at City Press

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Unions welcome adjournment of SAA business rescue vote, at Engineering News
  • Deep divisions and distress as SAA future is delayed, at SowetanLive


STAFFING / APPOINTMENTS

Cadre deployment memo is ‘fictitious’, says ANC, despite confirmation from highly placed sources

City Press reports that the ANC has distanced itself from a document bearing its letterhead, suggesting that Luthuli House has been warning its ministers that the appointment of senior staff must be guided by the party’s deployment committee.  The document – authenticity of which the ANC has repudiated – states that government’s directors-general, as well as executives at state-owned entities, chairpersons and board members, must always get the nod from its deployment committee, which is headed by Deputy President David Mabuza.  The document had been circulating recently, but the ANC had remained mum about it until Saturday, when it issued a general statement in response to media queries.  Contrary to the contents of the circulated memorandum, ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the party did not claim ownership, adding that “government appointments are made under clearly defined rules and regulations, as stipulated in the Public Service Act”.  However, City Press verified the document with at least three independent and highly placed sources in government and in Luthuli House, who said there was a constant need to keep reminding ministers of the strict processes that needed to be followed to ensure that strategic appointments in government complied with ANC policy.  The deployment committee, chaired by Mabuza and coordinated by ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, is intended to help the government place “suitable” candidates.

Read the full original of the detailed report in the above regard by Setumo Stone at City Press

Provision of essential service workers under Covid-19 beats Workforce Holdings’ initial expectations

BusinessLive reports that labour services group Workforce Holdings advised on Thursday that while activity had dropped off significantly under Covid-19, its level of business had exceeded its initial expectations.  The group’s staffing, outsourcing and recruitment business continues to provide essential services to critical industries such as e-commerce, retail supply chains, power and water utilities and call centres.  “Workforce remains vigilant in scanning and clearing workers for work opportunities in critical industries and sectors that are open in accordance with the prevailing regulations relating to the national lockdown,” the company indicated.

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

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Wits appoints Katlehong-born nuclear physicist Zeblon Vilakazi as vice-chancellor and principal, at BusinessLive


RETIREMENT FUNDS / PENSION INVESTMENTS

Mboweni backs calls for pension funds to invest in infrastructure projects

Fin24 reports that according to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, pension funds or retirement savings should be used to finance infrastructure projects.  He was briefing MPs on the supplementary budget, when he weighed in on amending Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act in response to a question about his position on asset prescription.  Regulation 28 provides guidance to pension funds and similar institutions on their investments and currently refers to investment in immovable property.  "There has been a narrow definition from investment managers on how they deal with this regulation.  Government wants the definition to include immovable property and infrastructure.  That is all we wanted to do, try to unlock in the minds of investment managers that they can invest a percentage of their investable funds in infrastructure, in addition to immovable property," Mboweni indicated.  He advised that the Financial Sector Conduct Authority intended to release a policy document on this issue, which would hopefully take place in the next six months.  Noting that the regulation provided guidance on the different percentages that should be invested in certain asset classes, Mboweni gave the assurance that the government had no intention of amending the current 25% allocation to immovable property.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lameez Omarjee at Fin24


WORKPLACE CORRUPTION / FRAUD

Former acting CFO at Merafong municipal arrested for R50m invested with VBS Bank

BusinessLive reports that a former manager at the Merafong municipality was arrested on Thursday in connection with R50m invested with VBS Mutual Bank.  He was scheduled to appear in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court on charges of contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act linked to the ongoing probe into the bank saga.  Eight former bank executives and suspects have already appeared in court in connection with the matter.  “The suspect, who was arrested this morning, was employed at Merafong local municipality ... until his retirement.  The investigations revealed that more than R50m was invested with VBS Mutual Bank at the time when he was acting as the CFO at the municipality,” a Hawks spokesperson said.  Merafong is one of 20 municipalities that invested funds with VBS in contravention of the Act.  “I have indicated that the investigations into the municipalities are at an advanced stage.  This is the beginning and all the other cases are receiving the necessary attention,” said Godfrey Lebeya, national head of the Hawks.

 


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