12 March 2020
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has called on Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi to urgently consider intervention measures that will mitigate the impact of the potential effects of the Corona virus in the South African World of Work. As the custodian of labour relations, FEDUSA believes that the Minister must provide leadership by urgently engaging the Presidency and Cabinet Colleagues to put in place emergency procedures in the labour market environment, to assist workers who may well be exposed to, and affected by the Corona virus. The seemingly passive approach by Government in communicating a definitive strategy to South Africans, to contain the spread of the virus is necessitated, as the number of infections in the country since the first official case was recorded on 01 March 2020 has now consistently increased to 17.
FEDUSA’s call comes in wake of the fact that existing legislation does not make any provision for workers who must be quarantined for the compulsory 21 days after testing positive for the virus, to claim sick leave, nor be paid for the time that they are away from work. FEDUSA similarly takes cognizance of the fact that employers will equally be affected in terms of lost production. For this reason, FEDUSA insists that already overburdened workers should not be subjected to a double tax burden as a result of the virus, due to no fault of their own.
It is in this context that FEDUSA calls on Minister Nxesi to gazette a special policy that will activate a special UIF payment for quarantined workers considering the Fund’s substantial surplus.
The Special UIF Dispensations will also automatically compensate the employer for lost productivity.
“”The impact of the virus within the work environment lies directly within the jurisdiction of Minister Nxesi and the Federation henceforth urges the Minister to proactively implement crisis management measures by activating the existing UIF surplus to help workers who might test positive for Corona,”” said Ms Riefdah Ajam, the General Secretary of FEDUSA. Moreover, this custodial responsibility by Minister Nxesi only just adds insult to injury, considering that Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993) prescribes the ”General duties of employers to their employees”. Section 8(1) clearly stipulates that the employer is obligated to provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and without risk to the health of their employees. How exactly is protection then extended to FEDUSA Members who are directly exposed to health hazards at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital since 07 March 2020 already, where 2 patients with specific symptoms of the Corona virus are being treated, questioned Ajam.
“Our members at key points of entry in South Africa such and frontline staff at critical institutions such as airports, schools, hospitals, hospitality and ecotourist industries to name a few, are crying out for decisive leadership and assurance, at a time when our economy is in a technical recession”. Decisive and definitive measures will go a long way in demonstrating both capability and capacity in managing South Africa’s readiness and response to this global outbreak.
For interviews please contact:
Ms Riefdah Ajam
FEDUSA General Secretary
079 696 2625
FEDUSA Media and Research Officer
072 637 8096