20 March 2020
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has called on both public and private sector employers to prioritize the health and safety of workers in the workplace by immediately implementing all the safety and hygiene provisions of existing legislation and defined protocols in the wake of serious health risks, that exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic entails. As South Africa now officially surpassed the 200 mark for positively – tested individuals, this call must be heeded with utmost vigilance.
The Department of Health’s COVID-19 Protocols, supported by the many sub legislations, regulations and codes of good practice that were enacted to give practical guidelines to the OHS in terms of managing health and safety in the workplace, must be embraced by all employers and employees as a permanent guide to health and safety in the workplace.
“We implore on all employers to ensure that protective and hygiene measures are implemented with immediate effect, to safe – guard all workers, at all costs, to prevent any form of exposure and infection,” said FEDUSA General Secretary, Riefdah Ajam. Moreover, in the event that either statutory or self – quarantine of staff is necessary, employers must grant workers a special paid sick leave dispensation at the same time that government makes it possible for affected employers to claim from a Special UIF Fund”. What remains critical is that there is no delay in accessing the funds from the UIF as many workers may find themselves out of pocket to pay for the R1400 tests, that FEDUSA believes must be absorbed by Government through the special disaster management fund or through the special called – for concessions, that medical aids include the testing via the prescribed minimum benefits.
As FEDUSA openly welcomed the announcement by the Reserve Bank to lower the interest rates 100 basis points to protect and minimise the impact on workers and the economy, the Federation
once again reiterates the call made by all Social Partners as part of the Rapid Response Team within NEDLAC to :
- Encourage commercial banks, to grant a premiums holidays to indebted consumers relating to home loans, vehicles finance and personal loans among others, so that workers who might be affected by the pandemic, do not lose their assets.
- Fasttrack and prioritise the urgency to engage with the TERS for all companies that may go into distress as a result of the virus and to fully monitor and provide extensive support for all sectors engaged in the hospitality industry in particular, as establishments are already experiencing mass cancellations ;
- The union federation also wants the Department of Employment and Labour and Health to assist unions and workers with mass sensitisation on site and at shop floor levels, where workers are not able to work remotely, as well as in all social areas of movement and also call on businesses to implement flexible and rotational working hours to prevent exposure to overcrowded public transport.
Awareness and sensitisation about the containment and spread of the virus remains critical – informed safety decisions and ultimately avoiding irrational behaviour, such as the frenzied buying of health products like masks, gloves and sanitizers, will only encourage unscrupulous practices of profiteering out of this national disaster. Already many cases of inflated and run-away prices have been noted. FEDUSA will not hesitate to report these cases to the Competition Commission and the Rapid Response Team, where the Federation is duly represented.
“As our country faces extraordinary times that require extraordinary intervention, there is no better time to demonstrate collective action from all social partners and society at large, to advance the critical priority of human safety and well – being; while providing a safe landing to anticipated economic challenges,” concluded Ajam.
For interviews please contact:
Ms Riefdah Ajam
FEDUSA General Secretary
079 696 2625
FEDUSA Media and Research Officer
072 637 8096