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 Wednesday morning roundup, see
summaries of our selection of recent South African
labour-related reports.


COVID-19 PANDEMIC

SA officially off UK travel red list, just in time for holidays

BL Premium reports that SA and 10 other African countries have been removed from the British government’s Covid-19 red list after it was slammed as “travel apartheid” by a number of leaders. UK health secretary Sajid Javid made the announcement on Tuesday, saying community transmission of the Omicron variant in the UK meant “the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad”. Travel into Britain will no longer be restricted to citizens and residents. But all travellers will still be required to take either a PCR or rapid lateral flow test a maximum of 48 hours before departure. Business and the government in SA cautiously welcomed the announcement.   International relations and co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said red-listing SA and the other countries “was an unjustified and unscientific decision to start with” and it went against the advice of the World Health Organization and the UN as well as scientists. “The impact of the ban has been devastating on two-way business, the travel and tourism industry as well as on families,” he pointed out. Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the red list requirement of a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine on return to the UK was a huge deterrent for Britons who were considering travelling to SA, but the country was hoping to welcome British travellers again soon. “The UK announcement has come just in time to allow families and friends to unite over the festive season,” she said.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Carien du Plessis, Katharine Child and Thando Maeko at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)

Health minister Joe Phaahla announces that state preparing for booster shots from next year

BL Premium reports that according to Department of Health (DOH) Minister Joe Phaahla, his department is still preparing its systems for Covid booster shots. As the government looks to halt the surge of the Omicron variant, those eligible for Pfizer booster shots would be able to do so from January, Phaahla announced on Tuesday. The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) on 8 December approved a third dose of the vaccine for people over the age of 18 who previously received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and for immunocompromised children and adults.   “To invite people for boosters from any time between December 16 and 31 is asking for too much ... we will get our systems ready but we will start with the third dose of Pfizer at the beginning of January,” Phaahla indicated. Booster shots for recipients of the single Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine were likely “in a few weeks” once approved by the health regulator, Phaahla indicated. Only health workers, who received their one-dose J&J vaccine more than six months ago, are currently eligible for a booster as part of the Sisonke 2 trials.   The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is meeting this week and is expected to consider more restrictions on movement and gatherings in light of the latest outbreak.  Phaahla said that if new restrictions were imposed, deputy president David Mabuza would make an announcement on Wednesday, .

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Thando Maeko at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)

Over 70% of South Africans have had Covid-19, which vaccinologist says masking severity of Omicron

Bloomberg News reports that leading scientists reckon that the level of immunity against the coronavirus among SA’s population due to earlier infections may be masking the severity of illness caused by the Omicron variant. Since the discovery of the variant in SA and Botswana was announced on 25 November, hospitalisation rates in SA have risen, though at a much slower pace than in previous waves, even as cases are rising more rapidly. The number of deaths has also been lower. A recent seroprevalence survey in Gauteng, where the Omicron variant was first identified, showed that 72% of the population had a previous infection with the coronavirus, Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist at Wits University, reported. That compares with about 20% when the Beta variant emerged a year ago.   Official statistics don’t reflect the extent of the pandemic’s effect on SA, with just 3.2-million positive tests and about 90,000 deaths. Excess deaths, a measure of mortality compared with a historical average, show that about 275,000 people may have died from the disease. The disparity between official statistics and the likely extent of infections is more pronounced in SA, though not unique.   About 6,000 people are in hospital in SA with Covid-19, about a third of the number at the peak of the second and third waves of infection. Current daily cases are close to record levels.   Of SA’s 60-million people, about 26% are fully vaccinated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Antony Sguazzin at BusinessLive

As Omicron surges in SA, study finds Pfizer shot gives 70% protection against hospitalisation

BL Premium reports that people fully vaccinated with the double-shot Pfizer vaccine are 70% less likely to contract severe Covid-19 requiring hospital admission. Even those who are admitted to hospital are often in a less serious condition than was the case with earlier variants of the coronavirus.   This was shown by a large real-world study by Discovery Health and the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC).   Private medical aid administrator Discovery worked with the SAMRC to analyse the data, which was based on three weeks of the Omicron variant’s spread in SA. The medical aid administrator has access to 3-million medical aid members’ records besides laboratory tests and hospital results.   Despite the Pfizer vaccine being less effective against Omicron than against previous variants, Discovery CEO Ryan Noach said the company was seeing a “delinking” of the infection curve; that is, the number of infections was rising but deaths and hospital admissions weren’t rising proportionately. The study also found that people infected with the Omicron variant were 29% less likely to require hospitalisation than during the first wave of Covid-19 in SA. At least 70% of South Africans are estimated to have been exposed to the coronavirus, which indicates a high level of natural immunity in the population, in addition to the number of people who have also been vaccinated.   As the number of cases rise in SA, the news about a high-level of immunity, milder infections and the effectiveness of vaccines against serious illness comes as the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is set to discuss more restrictions.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Katharine Child at BusinessLive (subscriber access only). Read too, Pfizer shot less effective in South Africa after Omicron emerges, study shows, at Moneyweb

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Covid-19 update: 23,884 new cases and 24 deaths reported in SA, at The Citizen
  • Pfizer says Covid pill drastically reduces severe disease, at EWN
  • Medical schemes organisation welcomes lower Covid-19 PCR test costs, at Engineering News
  • SA’s biggest life insurers hit by 22,544 death claims since start of Covid-19, at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)


BASIC INCOME GRANT

Panel recommends phased introduction by state of basic income support

BL Premium reports that a new report drawn up for the government recommends that SA should institute basic income support for adults with no income in a phased approach, beginning with the institutionalisation and stabilisation of the Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant. Once this is achieved, a targeted entry level for the proposed grant, set at the food poverty line, or R595 a month, should be implemented. After that, it should increase in “sustainable increments determined by affordability” over time. The report, released on Monday, was written by a panel chaired by Wits professor Alex van den Heever. The report tackles the hotly debated need for a basic income grant, spurred on by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Though the need for greater income support is clear, its affordability is hotly contested given the government’s constrained financial position. There has been mounting political pressure to turn the R350 Covid-19 SRD grant — launched to help adults without income cope during the pandemic and extended until March next year — into a more permanent feature of SA’s welfare net.   In the recent medium-term budget policy statement, finance minister Enoch Godongwana deferred any announcement on the matter until next year’s February budget. The Treasury emphasised that any decision would be weighed up against other spending priorities. The panel found, however, that in SA’s context — where unemployment, as measured by the expanded definition, is now getting close to 50%, and more than half of households live in poverty — there were “no alternative measures” other than a form of basic income support.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lynley Donnelly at BusinessLive (subscriber access only). Read too, Government urged to consult on social relief grant, at SowetanLive


OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY

North West traffic cop killed trying to stop a car on N4 in Zeerust

IOL reports that North West Transport MEC Sello Lehari has called on traffic officers to take extra measures to ensure that their safety comes first while on duty. This was indicated after a traffic officer was killed when a car she was trying to stop allegedly hit her on the N4 in Zeerust. “The Provincial Inspector, Moeder Vuka passed away on Thursday morning while on her daily stop and check duties when she was allegedly hit by a car which she was trying to stop on the N4. These unfortunate incidents turned to fatalities, especially during the festive season on the N4, which is currently our hotspot. Therefore, I plead with our law enforcement officers to practice extra safety measures while on duty,” Lehari said. Vuka of Lichtenburg, was working as Provincial Inspector in the Lehurutshe provincial traffic station. North West police are investigating a case of culpable homicide.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Molaole Montsho at IOL

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Hawks officer firing on hijackers shot by cop in apparent mix-up, at News24


MINING LABOUR

Sibanye-Stillwater, unions establish picketing rules in gold wage negotiation process

Mining Weekly reports that Sibanye-Stillwater has established picketing rules with labour unions under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Picketing rules are a requirement for the issuance of a certificate of non-resolution of a dispute. This step in the resolution process follows after the producer and four trade unions, namely the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and Uasa, reached a wage negotiation deadlock in November. Sibanye indicated on Monday that the CCMA would be carrying out inspections of the proposed picketing sites over the course of the next week.   The CCMA conciliation process was extended until 21 December to enable the parties to make submissions regarding the establishment of picketing rules, for the CCMA to consider these submissions and for it to conduct inspections of the proposed picketing sites.   Sibanye’s current wage offer, made on 19 October, would see so-called ‘category four to eight’ employees receive increases of R520 (4.1%), R610 (4.7%) and R640 (4.7%) in years one, two and three of a multi-year agreement. According to Sibanye, the unions’ wage increase demand was for an increase of R1,000 a month.

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

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

  • Mike Teke: Why mineworkers should not be left in the dark, at BusinessLive

Other general posting(s) relating to mining

  • HSBC says it will phase out financing of thermal coal by 2040, at Mining Weekly


SEPARATIONS

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko to step down half a year earlier than planned

Moneyweb reports that Telkom Group CEO Sipho Maseko will step down at the end of this month, half a year earlier than originally planned.   In a statement on Tuesday, Telkom said CEO-designate Serame Taukobong would take the reins from Maseko on 1 January 2022. “The leadership transition plan is progressing effectively. As part of this plan, Sipho will step down from the Telkom board and those of subsidiaries, and remain an employee of Telkom until June 30, 2022. During this period, Sipho will be available to the new group CEO and the board in an advisory capacity,” the company indicated.   Maseko, who joined Telkom in April 2013, is credited with turning around the company’s fortunes. At the time, Telkom was in dire straits. The share price more than tripled on his watch as he set about restructuring and streamlining the organisation to better compete in a liberalised telecommunications market.

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Duncan McLeod at Moneyweb


STAFFING

Western Cape adds 87 new traffic cops to force ahead of festive season

News24 reports that as the festive season draws near, an extra 87 new traffic officers will be on Western Cape streets to clamp down on reckless road users. The new traffic officers graduated on Monday at the Gene Louw Traffic College and will be deployed at various Provincial Traffic Centres - including Knysna, Beaufort West and Vredendal. Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell, who attended the graduation, said the new officers would "contribute" to ensuring a safer society for all. "This year will always be remembered as the year of Covid-19. The college was faced with various challenges, such as the third wave, which resulted in a complete suspension of the training.   These challenges brought out the best in the college staff and management as they pushed the boundaries of creativity and innovation by using our available technology with the development of the Moodle training application to ensure that students could continue with off-site training," said Mitchell. The officers have been trained on how to fully utilise all the current technology, which includes in-vehicle technology, handheld devices and digital printing solution to issue traffic fines. Mitchell also launched the festive period safety plan, saying the department would be clamping down on habitual offenders.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lisalee Solomons at News24


RETIREMENT FUNDS / PENSION INVESTMENTS

Retirement annuities and defined benefit funds to be included in Treasury’s ‘two-pot’ pension proposal

BL Premium reports that the Treasury’s proposals for a two-pot retirement system to cater for preservation and access to retirement funds in cases of financial need will also apply to retirement annuities and defined benefit funds. This is according to a Treasury policy document on the proposal released on Tuesday for public consultation. The paper on retirement reform — “Encouraging South African households to save more for retirement” — proposes the previously announced “two-pot system” aimed at boosting household savings by increasing preservation before retirement while introducing more flexibility through partial access to retirement funds. Two-thirds of the fund would have to be preserved until retirement and one third could be withdrawn at any one time, thereby avoiding the need for workers to resign from their jobs to gain access to their retirement savings.   With regard to retirement annuities (RA), Treasury said that if they were are not included in the two-pot system and no access was permitted before the age of 55, as was now the case, then there would be no way to assist individuals in financial distress who were probably self-employed. Including RAs in the two-pot system would mean that pension funds, provident funds and RAs will all be identical in terms of tax treatment, pre-retirement preservation and post-retirement preservation. The Treasury also proposed including all defined benefit funds, including the Government Employees Pension Fund, in the two-pot system since they were already required to value benefits before retirement and already make large preretirement payouts to employees who resigned or were retrenched.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Linda Ensor at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)


DISMISSALS

Ousted Prasa CEO Zolani Matthews takes agency to court over dismissal

TimesLive reports that ousted Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) CEO Zolani Matthews is taking the rail and passenger utility to the labour court in an attempt to have his dismissal overturned. This week, Matthews filed court papers in which he seeks immediate reinstatement as CEO of Prasa. He also wants the court to interdict the Prasa board from taking any action relating to termination of employment, including releasing any media statements. Furthermore, he wants the court to stop the board from hiring another CEO to fill his position. In the court papers, Matthews challenges the board’s reasons and powers for terminating his employment. Matthews was suspended and subsequently fired as Prasa CEO earlier this month after the board accused him of failing to disclose his dual citizenship.   Matthews holds British and SA citizenship. The Prasa board cited Matthews’s failure to secure a clearance from the State Security Agency (SSA) because of the citizenship issue as the main reason for removing him. In his court papers, Matthews argues that security clearance was not a prerequisite for the job and that he had already lodged an appeal with President Cyril Ramaphosa challenging the SSA decision to not grant him “top secret” clearance.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Kgothatso Madisa at BusinessLive


OTHER REPORTS

Man loses 15-year fight to get SANDF to scrap its swimming requirement to be a training instructor

News24 reports that a man's 15-year fight against swimming requirements at the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has been dismissed by the Pretoria High Court. In 2006, Johannes Dzumba applied for a place in the Physical Training Instructor's course offered by the SANDF. To qualify for the course, he had to undergo a one-week selection course and also be able to complete a 25-metre freestyle swim. Dzumba failed twice to qualify for the course after failing the Basic Water Orientation because he could not swim. He asked the military to evaluate the entry requirements as he considered the swim prerequisite an unfair and invalid assessment practice.   He claimed the requirement was "biased, groundless and oppressive". Dzumba took the minister of defence and the military ombud to the Pretoria High Court to get the requirements scrapped. In August, his application was dismissed, with costs.   In his judgment, Judge AJ Cochrane said the requirement did not amount to unfair discrimination.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tebogo Monama at News24

 


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