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
Tuesday, 12 January 2021.


TOP STORY – REOPENING OF SCHOOLS / MATRIC MARKING

As department gives nod for schools to open at end of January, unions call for enough PPE and for early teacher vaccinations

BL Premium reports that public schooling, which has already been delayed because of the resurging Covid-19 pandemic, is set to resume at the end of January.  The Department of Basic Education (DBE) said on Monday that teachers would return to school on 25 January, while pupils would follow on 27 January.  Elijah Mhlanga, DBE spokesperson, indicated:  “In terms of our state of readiness, we are saying we are ready to open. We will learn from the lessons from last year.”  The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) and the SA Teachers’ Union (SAOU) said issues that had to be sorted out included ensuring that there was enough personal protective equipment (PPE) available.  Calls have also been made for teachers to be vaccinated early and treated as front-line workers.  SAOU’s Chris Klopper said new masks would have to be made available for new grade 8 and grade 1 pupils, while sanitiser supplies should also be addressed as stock was depleted.  Klopper said another issue was teachers with comorbidities.  SA is back on alert level 3, previously under which teachers with comorbidities were allowed to not go to school.  Sadtu’s Mugwena Maluleke said schools had to open safely as guided by the science.  Maluleke also said there should be an economic stimulus package for all provinces, while there had to be proper tracking and tracing.  Infrastructure at schools should also be focused on.

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

Schools could turn into Covid-19 'super-spreaders', says teachers' union Natu

TimesLIVE reports that the reopening of schools later this month might lead to a spike in Covid-19 infections, a teachers' union said on Monday as it called on the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to “think very carefully” about the move.  The National Teachers' Union (Natu) said it appeared that the department would fail to provide the required PPEs, water, sanitation facilities, ensure social distancing and employ substitute and temporary teachers on time — as it did last year.  Non-compliance with health and safety requirements contributed significantly to the rate of Covid-19 in schools, the union suggested.  “Natu is concerned that when these children return from different vacation points after the Christmas break, these schools could turn into super-spreader sites for Covid-19 infections,” said general secretary Cynthia Barnes.  “We have no choice but to appeal to the department to ensure that all the non-negotiables are delivered to all schools in time. Otherwise, to further contribute to, and exacerbate, the disparities among the South African schools would be irresponsible and indeed unsympathetic to the plight of thousands of our teachers and children,” Barnes warned.  Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said a Covid-19 vaccine was the only solution to the challenges confronted by the education sector, adding that teachers needed to be classified as front-line workers.  

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nonkululeko Njilo at TimesLIVE

Grade 12 exam marking extended due to shortage of markers after some withdraw due to Covid-19

TimesLIVE reports that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has extended the marking of grade 12 exam papers due to a shortage of markers after some withdrew or declined to work, in many cases because of Covid-19.  This was revealed by an education official during a media briefing on Monday.  The marking will extend for 18 days, as opposed to 12 to 14 days in previous years.  Marking started on 4 January and is expected to be completed on 22 January.  “To date 2,703 of 46,024 markers withdrew,” Priscilla Ogunbanjo, director for examinations at the DBE, advised.  She said one marker in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal, reported for duty at a marking centre while feeling sick and later died of Covid-19 complications.  Another marker has since contracted the coronavirus at the centre.  Of those who tested positive, 238 markers contracted the coronavirus after reporting for duty.  Ogunbanjo said the department had replaced the infected markers, decontaminated the affected centres and followed all other safety protocols.  In the Eastern Cape, all the markers were subjected to Covid-19 tests.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nonkululeko Njilo at TimesLIVE. Read too, Everything ‘on track’ with marking of matric exams, on page 2 of The Star of 12 January 2021

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Sadtu pleased with measures taken by KZN govt to prevent spread of Covid-19, at EWN
  • Schools are controlled environments so are not similar to mass gatherings, says Prof Salim Abdool Karim, at TimesLIVE


COVID-19 HEALTH & SAFETY

HPCSA urges 'overburdened' healthcare workers to accept Covid-19 vaccine

News24 reports that the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) has urged healthcare workers to take the Covid-19 vaccine when it arrives in the country.  "The announced procurement of over one million Covid-19 vaccines – prioritised mainly for healthcare workers – by the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize is a welcome development and augurs well for the positive long-term management of the disease.  The HPCSA welcomes this programme and is hopeful that it will be implemented effectively and efficiently.  The HPCSA further urges healthcare workers to make themselves available for vaccination as this will protect them against contracting the disease, which can only be of benefit to South Africans dependent on care from them," the statutory body stated on Tuesday.  A rapid rise in cases is anticipated in the healthcare system during the new surge of infections.  At the same time, there is some unfounded scepticism over the safety of vaccines, with some people going as far as claiming that vaccines may be part of a sinister plot to control the world, and that kitchen cupboard remedies may be safer.  The council reiterated growing concerns that healthcare workers were overburdened during the huge resurgence.  "This will have a rippling effect on the efficiency and functioning of the healthcare system," the HPCSA warned.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jenni Evans at News24. Read too, DA wants clarity from Ramaphosa on acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines, at EWN

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu tests positive for Covid-19

News24 reports that Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has tested positive for Covid-19.  He took a test on Monday after showing some symptoms.  Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams indicated that, as per Covid-19 regulations, Mthembu, as well as those who had been in contact with him, would immediately self-quarantine.  Mthembu is the fourth member of the executive who has tested positive in the past week.  Deputy ministers David Mahlabo, Obed Bapela and Boitumelo Moloi also tested positive.  Mthembu is said to be in high spirits and wishes all those who are also fighting the coronavirus a speedy recovery.  "We once again urge all South Africans to play their part by continuing to regularly wash or sanitise their hands, properly wear a face mask, and practice physical distancing at all times," said Mthembu.

Read the original of the short report in the above regard by Ntwaagae Seleka at News24

US ambassador Lana Marks praises SA healthcare workers after 10 days in ICU with Covid-19

TimesLIVE reports that the US embassy has revealed that its ambassador to SA, Lana Marks, spent 10 days in intensive care while recovering from Covid-19.  In a statement on Monday, Marks detailed how she started to experience Covid-19 symptoms the day after Christmas and ended up in ICU two days later.  The embassy declined to say in which city the ambassador was hospitalised.  Marks was discharged from hospital late last week, and continues to receive care at home.  She described Covid-19 as a tremendously serious and unpredictable illness, and the most physically debilitating experience of her life.  She also sang the praises of the hospital staff who cared for her, saying:  “I will forever be grateful for the excellent level of care that I received from the South African doctors and nurses who tended to me in the hospital.  I am just one of tens of thousands of Covid-19 patients that SA’s health-care workers and hospitals have treated with the utmost professionalism, putting their own lives at risk to practise their calling.  Having seen them on the front lines of this battle for nearly a year, and now having had my own life in their hands, I will always remember their heroism and dedication and all that they sacrifice and risk as they fight this dangerous illness on behalf of their countrymen.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Andisiwe Makinana at TimesLIVE

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • KZN private hospitals to erect temporary structures to deal with COVID patients, at EWN
  • Gauteng health facilities to increase bed capacity as Covid-19 hospital admissions surge, at TimesLIVE


MINING LABOUR

SA mining confident it can tackle risk of heightened infections amid Covid-19 surge

Miningmx reports that SA’s mining industry is confident of handling a surge in Covid-19 infections as the sector resumes full activities following the seasonal holidays.  “The industry’s focus is back to prevention of infection, which is social distancing, masks and sanitation, as well as robust screening and testing protocols.  What we have this time around is the wonderful benefit of hindsight … This time it’s not so much about the learning how to cope with something we’ve never experienced before, but the doing,” Charmane Russell, spokeswoman for the Minerals Council SA, told BusinessLive.  Gold Fields vice-president for SA operations, Martin Preece, said there was some concern regarding the higher incidence of Covid-19 infections identified among returning employees.  But he added that the company would demonstrate it was safer to be at work than at home, as it had done during the peak of Covid-19 infections last year.  James Wellsted, spokesman for Sibanye-Stillwater, said protocols were in place to ensure the smooth restart of operations at the facilities of the platinum group metal and gold producer.  “It’s traditionally a slow start-up period in the new year.  The only difference now really is that Covid has added the element of screening and testing, but we’ve learnt from 2020 which means we’ve improved the way we bring people back and conduct the screening process. It’s a lot smoother now,” Wellsted advised.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by David McKay at Miningmx

The appointment of four mining CEOs likely to frame the sector’s 2021 outlook

Miningmx writes that the performance of three of Johannesburg’s largest mining shares by value in 2021 will have much to do with a new generation of CEOs, one of which has already been named.  A permanent change of management is imminent for two of stock exchange’s largest gold companies, namely AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) and Gold Fields, while at global diversified miner Glencore, Gary Nagle will replace CEO Ivan Glasenberg.  A fourth firm, Rio Tinto, replaced its CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques with Jakob Stausholm.  Although not listed in Johannesburg, its direction of travel will be illustrative of industry-wide problems and challenges.  At Gold Field, Nick Holland, an accountant and CEO of the company for 13 years, is leaving the firm during 2021 because he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 63.  Holland will be a big miss.  Whoever steps into the breach, however, will have the quo vadis question of South Deep – an issue that runs deep to the heart of whether SA gold mining has a viable, long-term future.  At AGA, the company is being run by former CFO, Christine Ramon, who has proven to be adept in the role.  Ramon is interim CEO owing to the August resignation of Kelvin Dushnisky.  Reportedly, Ramon is keen for the job at AGA permanently, but there’s background noise in the company.  An ‘issue’ is that shareholders may prefer an operational, hands-on CEO.  At Glencore, Ivan Glasenberg announced his 2021 retirement in December.  Gary Nagle, a South African who currently heads the group’s coal division, is his chosen successor. He will have to deal with some of the mining sector’s most divisive issues, particularly that investors are increasingly turning their backs on companies with heavy fossil fuel exposure.

Read the full original of David McKay’s article in the above regard at Miningmx


MUNICIPALITIES

Parliament calls for solutions from Amathole after municipality said it wouldn’t be paying salaries over next four months

Independent News reports that Parliament has urged the cash-strapped Amathole District Municipality to find a solution to its financial woes that have seemingly threatened its ability to pay salaries over the next four months.  On 7 January, the municipality notified councillors, employees and traditional leaders that it would be unable to pay the salaries for February, April, May and June.  The municipality needs a staggering R411 million for its salary bill with at least R65m for the next four months.  In its circular, Amathole said its cash-flow projections for the remainder of the financial year showed that it would not be able to honour salary payments.  The municipality was fingered by the late auditor-general Kimi Makwetu as the top spender on consultants and salaries.  It has blamed its financial hardships on low revenue collection, drought, Covid-19 pandemic and bloated personnel that was beyond the norm.  On Tuesday, cooperative governance and traditional affairs portfolio chairperson Faith Muthambi urged the leaders and managers of Amathole to find solutions to its financial and budgetary problems.  “The non-payment of salaries to the staff is inadvertently going to affect the delivery of services to the people, a constitutional responsibility for which the municipality exists.  We are calling on the leadership and the management of the municipality to rise to the occasion and find solutions to the problems,” Muthambi said.  She also pointed out that the non-payment of salaries, even for one month, was a very serious problem with unspeakable implications.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mayibongwe Maqhina at Independent News

Karoo municipality slammed for plan to massively outsource services and for 'political' staff appointments

TimesLIVE reports that the Kannaland municipality, which is one of SA’s poorest municipalities, is planning to outsource the provision of electricity and water services at a cost of R735m.  However, the Western Cape provincial government is mounting a legal challenge to stop the council in the central Karoo from “incurring massive liabilities that it simply cannot afford”.  “There are ongoing efforts to push through a contract with a private entity for the provision of electricity and water services and infrastructure at a cost of hundreds of millions of rand that would bind the municipality for more than 25 years,” advised Anton Bredell, Western Cape minister for local government.  The project will apparently come at a cost of R735m, even though the municipality’s entire available operating budget for 2020/21 is R174m.  The provincial government has also raised concern about several new staff appointments, including a “political support” officer and other support staff, which Bredell described as “particularly reprehensible for a small municipality in a financial crisis struggling to deliver services to the community and dealing with the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”.  He commented further as follows:  “The financial recovery plan put in place for the municipality introduced a cost-effective and cost-saving staffing structure which is being ignored. This smacks of jobs for pals and is simply unacceptable.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bobby Jordan at TimesLIVE


RETIREMENT FUNDS

SIU gets temporary order freezing pension benefits of axed agriculture department CFO in relation to PPE contract

News24 reports that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been granted an order to freeze the pension benefits of dismissed Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALR & RD) CFO Jacob Basil Hlatshwayo.  The Special Tribunal (ST) issued the temporary order prohibiting the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) from paying out Hlatshwayo's pension benefits.  The ST has called on respondents in the matter to show cause, if any, by 1 February 2021, as to why the order should not be made final.  SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said in a statement that the order followed an investigation into the alleged irregular awarding by the DALR & RD of a personal protective equipment (PPE) contract to a particular company.  Hlatshwayo was dismissed on 12 October 2020 in an unrelated matter.  Kganyago said the SIU had felt it prudent to secure Hlatshwayo's payout while it finalised investigations.  “Once [the] investigation is completed, the SIU intends to bring a formal application to the Special Tribunal to recover any losses suffered by the State as a result of the alleged irregular award of the contract," Kganyago indicated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Ntwaagae Seleka at News24


SEXUAL ABUSE

Port Elizabeth police colonel fired after probe into alleged rape of girl aged eight

TimesLIVE reports that a senior Port Elizabeth (PE) policeman has been dismissed after an Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) probe into allegations that he raped a child.  The police watchdog said on Monday it had concluded an investigation into the rape allegations of an eight-year-old girl by a colonel from the PE police station.  By law the office cannot be named until he has entered a plea in court.  The matter is before the Uitenhage Magistrate's Court and according to Ipid the office of the director of public prosecutions has yet to determine whether the trial will be heard by the regional court or the high court, as well as the trial date.  The former officer is out of custody on R5,000 bail and is under 24-hour house arrest with strict conditions that he cannot make contact with the complainant, the victim, or the victim’s family.  “The dismissal of the colonel is welcomed, and may this dismissal send a strong message to police officers that women’s bodies and rights should be respected,” Ipid said.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Orrin Singh at TimesLIVE

 


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