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
Monday, 11 January 2021.


COVID-19 HEALTH & SAFETY

Health department expanding capacity as hospitals buckle under Covid-19 pressure

EWN reports that the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said capacity at both private and public health facilities was being expanded to create more space to treat Covid-19 patients.  Hospitals across the country are becoming increasingly overwhelmed as the second wave of infections spreads rapidly across the country.  The Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria has been battling an influx of Covid-19 patients over the past few weeks, prompting the facility to erect tents in the parking lot and to use other desperate measures to avoid turning people away.  Images of patients being treated in makeshift emergency units have been making the rounds on social media, with healthcare workers warning that the hospital has reached breaking point.  With the second wave still expected to peak in Gauteng, there are concerns that many hospitals in the province will not have enough beds to cope with the influx of new patients.  But, DOH director-general Dr Anban Pillay said the system was not at full capacity yet.  He observed:  “I know our private hospital colleagues are under greater pressure around beds.  The bed occupancy is much higher at this stage than the public sector.  We are supporting them at this stage but we have to monitor the situation and as things develop, we will bring on more and more beds.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Thando Kubheka at EWN

David Makhura says Nasrec facility will be used to help as Gauteng Covid-19 hospitalisations surge

TimesLIVE reports that according to Gauteng premier David Makhura, Tshwane has been hardest-hit by the second wave of Covid-19 with province's highest daily infections.  “It's at the centre, it's where the heat is at the moment,” Makhura said.  He also warned that the evidence showed that the second wave would be worse than the first:  “We are just where we were at the peak of the first wave and we are passing that peak, all models are telling us.”  Makhura visited Steve Biko Academic Hospital in the city with the health MEC, Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi, on Monday.  He reported that in the past seven days, admissions to public hospitals in Gauteng increased from 700 to more than 2,000.  He noted that, combined with private hospitals, the admissions exceeded 4,000.  “The next two weeks are going to be critical on the side of government. We are doing everything in our power, working with our health-care workers,” Makhura said.  He indicated that they would be using the Nasrec field hospital again, after it was downscaled after the first wave.  Mokgethi said they were managing the stock levels of PPE at hospitals and also managing the availability constantly.  “We had a meeting with all the CEOs of all the hospital to assess our PPE availability and there were no issues around that,” she indicated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Shonisani Tshikalange at TimesLIVE

Alarming increase in Covid-19 infections at Helderstroom prison in Caledon

Cape Times reports that a soaring number of more than 150 Covid-19 infections among inmates at the Helderstroom Maximum Correctional Centre in Caledon has been recorded despite efforts to contain the spread of the virus.  Department of Correctional Services (DCS) spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said they have put in place stricter lockdown measures at the Helderstroom prison, including limited to almost none movement.  “Inmates cannot move to other sections inside the prison. Outsiders cannot go inside the centre, unless under pressing circumstances or emergency,” he indicated.  The DCS had placed the prison on a strict lockdown earlier on Wednesday after 87 prisoners and five officials tested positive.  In a bid to curb further spread, the department had isolated the confirmed positive cases and quarantined the presumptive cases.  Although only the Maximum Centre was affected at that stage, DCS had also placed strict protocols at the Medium Centre.  However as of Saturday, infections had almost doubled following an alarming increase of 152 inmates and eight officials who contracted the virus at the facility.  Nxumalo also said Infection Prevention Control measures were being ramped up at all management areas across the country with specific directives to push for the continued sanitization of reception areas, cells, offices, vehicles and ablution facilities.  About 9,554 positive cases have been recorded countrywide, comprising 6,152 officials and 3,402 inmates.  The department has lost 127 officials and 58 inmates due to Covid-19 related illnesses.  DCS’s tracking of the virus recorded that, as of Saturday, there had been an additional 126 cases countrywide.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Okuhle Hlati at Cape Times. Read too, Government ramps up efforts to stop Covid-19 breakout in prison, at TimesLIVE

Basic Education Department says teachers won’t be forced to take Covid-19 vaccination

EWN reports that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) won’t be putting teachers under pressure to take the Covid-19 vaccine.  Teachers have been particularly hard hit by Covid-19, with more than 1,600 having been infected in recent months.  As essential workers, educators will be included in phase two of SA’s vaccine roll-out.  But the DBE’s director-general Mathanzima Mweli said the law didn't allow them to force teachers to be vaccinated.  Mweli added that they would, however, encourage teachers to take the vaccine when it was their turn to get the jabs as this would save many lives.  "For now it will be the best way to manage the spread and deal with the pandemic. All teacher unions were at the forefront saying teachers must be considered as frontline workers, pushing to receive the vaccine first," he commented.  In two weeks, public schools will reopen for the first time under the adjusted level three lockdown restrictions, and as fresh infection numbers continue to rise, the countdown is causing anxiety among teachers.  For many the promised Covid vaccines are a ray of hope in an increasingly bleak situation, but for some teachers, mixed messages around the vaccines are confusing.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mia Lindeque at EWN

Matric exam marking hit by mass withdrawal of markers due to Covid-19 infections and other reasons

SowetanLive reports that about 2,000 matric exam markers have had to withdraw from marking the National Senior Certificate exam scripts due to various reasons, including cases of positive Covid-19 tests.  But, according to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), it will complete the marking in the next 10 days despite having to replace those who have withdrawn from the process.  Marking began last week amid mass withdrawals by markers due to positive Covid-19 tests, bereavements and fears of contacting the virus.  The process is scheduled to be completed on 21 January.  DBE director-general Mathanzima Mweli said there was no crisis in getting the markers replaced as they had anticipated since March last year that Covid-19 would negatively impact on the marking of matric scripts.  A report by the Eastern Cape education department revealed that 292 officials at marking centres, including markers, school staff, managers and security officers, tested positive for Covid-19 up until Saturday during the mandatory screening and testing.  The province has a shortage of 45 markers and 167 exam assistants and is working towards finding replacements.  In Gauteng, about 800 markers withdrew last week and were replaced.  SA Democratic Teachers’ Union secretary Mugwema Maluleke said they were happy with the progress made despite the withdrawal of markers.  Basil Manuel of the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA said preventing markers from contracting the virus was no easy task:  “People travel in and out of the centres, then they may decide to walk down the road and meet so and so. It's a big task.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Isaac Mahlangu at SowetanLive. Read too, Covid-19 wreaks havoc with matric exam marking centres, at The Star

Worker bust for alleged attempted theft of PPE at Eastern Cape hospital

News24 reports that an Eastern Cape health worker was arrested at Frontier Hospital in Komani on Saturday for allegedly stealing personal protective equipment (PPE).  Provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the worker was caught by security guards trying to leave with eight boxes filled with the life-saving equipment.  The suspect was one of hundreds of people the provincial government had roped in to help fight the spread of Covid-19.  "However, instead of helping the department and, by extension, every Eastern Cape resident, the worker was caught stealing the life-saving PPE. The vigilant security guards searched the worker and found the box full of PPE as he was about to leave the hospital," Kupelo reported.  He said the worker was detained by security officers before police were called to arrest him. Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba called on the criminal justice system to make an example of the arrested man.  “By stealing the PPE, the worker was leaving frontline workers like doctors and doctors defenceless against this vicious virus that has already killed 8 662 people in the Eastern Cape," Gomba stated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Malibongwe Dayimani at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Richards Bay cemetery staff battling to cope with soaring number of burials due to Covid-19 deaths, at TimesLIVE


BUSINESS CONDITIONS / JOBS

Amid job loss concerns, KZN government commits to extending helping hand to Durban's Hilton Hotel

TimesLIVE reports that the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) government has committed to working with Durban's Hilton Hotel in an attempt to ensure it reopens its doors soon.  It emerged on Saturday that the city's iconic landmark, situated next to the International Convention Centre (ICC), would be shutting its doors, temporarily.  It is unclear when the hotel intends to reopen.  MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs, Ravi Pillay, said on Sunday that, together with other spheres of government, including the eThekwini Municipality, “we will continue working with the Hilton to ensure that we find solutions and to ensure they reopen their doors soon”.  Pillay said the department understood the pressures facing the establishment and was involved in interventions to try to avert the closure.  The department is concerned that the closure will have a negative impact on jobs.  Pillay noted that since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the global hotel group had closed down over 1,000 Hilton hotels worldwide, including one in Cape Town which closed down last year.  The iconic hotel in Durban has played a huge role in attracting tourists to eThekwini and to the province.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Zimasa Matiwane at TimsLIVE

Following ban on alcohol sales, SAB suspends merger commitments on jobs, investment

Reuters reports that South African Breweries (SAB) has suspended commitments to retain workers and investments, agreed as part of its merger with Anheuser-Busch InBev, due to SA’s decision to ban alcohol sales.  SA banned alcohol sales late last month as part of tighter restrictions to rein in the spread of Covid-19.  The company indicated in court papers filed on Wednesday that “its obligations have been suspended with effect from the date of the impugned regulations.”  The conditions of the $106 billion merger required SAB to maintain an aggregate headcount of 5,967 workers in SA and for AB InBev to make a R1 billion investment in the country in five equal instalments of R200 million over a period of five years from the date of the merger agreement.  SAB, now a unit of AB InBev, is challenging the government’s decision to re-impose a third alcohol ban as unlawful.  In a process that started in May, SAB submitted a proposal to the Competition Commission to amend its merger conditions by way of an application to the Competition Tribunal, which makes the final ruling on mergers.  “This risk (of non-compliance with merger conditions) has arisen as a consequence of the impugned provisions, which have completely banned the sale of alcohol products,” Richard Rivett-Carnac, a director of SAB, claimed in an affidavit.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nqobile Dludla at Moneyweb. Read too, SAB stands behind its social media campaign against the ban of alcohol, at SowetanLive

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Ramaphosa expected to extend current lockdown restrictions, continue clampdown on alcohol, at News24


SALARY PAYMENTS

Freeze for four months on payment of salaries at Amathole municipality in Eastern Cape

TimesLIVE reports that the Amathole municipality in the Eastern Cape will not be able to pay salaries to councillors, traditional leaders and all staff for four months beginning in February due to strained financial resources.  The non-payment of salaries will affect 1,670 people.  In a circular dated 7 January and signed by municipal manager, Thandekile Mnyimba, it was indicated that number of factors had contributed to the municipality’s dire financial situation.  It collected less than 25% of its revenue in the first two quarters of the present financial year, and drought and the Covid-19 pandemic had further strained the financial resources.  Mnyimba said the overall salary bill consumed the entire equitable share allocation from National Treasury, which was meant for municipal operations and service delivery projects.  But, Mnyimba told eNCA that staff needed to report for duty throughout the period as their salaries would be back paid once funds were received.  The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) described the circular as “unprecedented”, saying it created “panic and uncertainty”.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Ernest Mabuza at TimesLIVE

Samwu calls for cash-strapped Amathole District Municipality to be placed under administration

TimesLIVE reports that the SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) has called for the Amathole District Municipality to be placed under administration.  It has also called for the municipal manager, Thandekile Mnyimba, to be relieved of his duties as it claims that he has shown that he cannot competently run the municipality's affairs.  The union made these demands after an announcement by the Eastern Cape municipality that it would not be able to pay salaries to 1,670 councillors, traditional leaders and all staff for four months, beginning in February, due to strained financial resources.  The union's Eastern Cape secretary, Luzuko Yalezo, said that of greatest concern was that the municipality did not consult workers on this development.  Yalezo pointed out that the move had significant impact on the livelihoods of workers and service delivery for Amathole residents.  Noting that the municipality had asked workers to make arrangements with creditors for the period during which it would not be paying salaries, Yalezo said the council had not taken into account that food was not bought on credit, while transportation to work for workers and their dependents was also not given on credit.  He added that the call for the municipality to be placed under administration was informed by a number of developments, including maladministration, financial mismanagement, corruption, outsourcing, privatisation and fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Ernest Mabuza at TimesLIVE


EXECUTIVE PAY / WAGE GAP

Proposed amendments to Companies Act could expose SA’s wage gap

Moneyweb reports that the Companies Amendment Bill is expected to make some progress during 2021 after stalling somewhere along the legislative process during 2019 and 2020.  Unless watered down before enactment, some of the proposed amendments might prompt a level of restraint so far missing in respect of executive remuneration in SA.  One of the most significant sections of the bill, and likely to be one of the most contentious, are the proposed changes to Section 30 of the Companies Act relating to ‘Duties to prepare directors’ remuneration report’.  If enacted, the changes will require public companies and state-owned entities (SOEs) to disclose the details of the highest and lowest paid employees in the company.  The proposed amendment, which reflects the efforts of the labour movement and some academics, will provide the first-ever detailed insight into the extent of the wage gap at individual company level in SA.  In addition “the average and the median remuneration of all employees and the remuneration gap reflecting the ratio between the lowest paid and the chief executive officer or the highest remunerated employee in the company” must be disclosed in the directors’ remuneration report.  Mike Martin of Active Shareholder, a not-for-profit company that helps responsible shareholders to exercise their company rights, has welcomed plans for the improved disclosure.  But there are concerns that the new disclosure requirements might encourage companies to move low-paid employees off their books, through the increased use of precarious outsourcing arrangements, to avoid the spotlight.

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


SUSPENSIONS

Crime intelligence bosses lose appeals to have suspensions overturned

TimesLIVE reports that national crime intelligence boss Lt-Gen Peter Jacobs and five other senior crime intelligence officers have lost a high court bid to have their suspensions overturned.  Jacobs, Brig Albo Lombard, Col Isaac Walljee, Col Manogaran Gopal, Maj-Gen Maperemisa Lekalakala, and Col Bale Matamela were all suspended in December following allegations by the inspector-general of Intelligence of abuse last year of the secret service account to fraudulently procure personal protective equipment.  Instead of accepting their suspension — with full pay — pending an investigation and internal disciplinary process, the accused decided to take their employer, national commissioner Gen Kehla Sitole, to court claiming his decision to suspend them was unlawful.  They claimed he did not adhere to the Intelligence Services Oversight Act in taking the decision.  However, the Pretoria High Court found on Friday that not only was Sitole entitled to take action against his staff upon being made aware of their alleged misconduct, he was legally obligated to do so.  The judgment noted that the suspensions were clearly an interim measure to provide space for proper investigations.  In his responding affidavit, Sitole said the suspensions were necessary to prevent Jacobs and his fellow accused from interfering in the investigations.  The judge set aside the appeal and also ruled that the applicants must pay their own legal costs.  They were represented by the South African Policing Union (Sapu).

Read the full original of the detailed report in the above regard by Aron Hyman at TimesLIVE

 


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