As the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU), we thank our members who have heeded the call to ensure the continuation of essential services to South Africans, in particular the poor who need them the most. We further thank municipal workers for rolling up their sleeves and put service delivery before their health and safety, including those of their families.
We have in the past days received reports from our structures on the ground that municipalities have largely complied with the regulations of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in ensuring that workers are provided with the requisite Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the safe execution of their duties.
Our members have also reported instances wherein they have been working overtime without any plans or commitment of remuneration by the employer. Further to this, there has been no indication by municipalities as to how workers who are in the forefront of ensuring that services are not interrupted would be paid in terms of danger allowance.
We appreciate the fact that we are not operating in a normal situation and that most agreements we have with municipalities never envisaged the situation South Africa finds itself in. We have therefore advised our members that they should continue working and that these items would be negotiated with affected municipalities soon as normality returns.
There has further been reports of several municipalities which have threatened workers who refused to work because the employer had not put in place adequate health and safety measures in place to protect employees. We reiterate our call that municipal workers should refuse to work if and when they feel the working environment is not safe and that they are negligently being exposed to the virus.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act clearly indicates that it is the responsibility of the employer to “provide and maintain as far as reasonable and practical a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees.” This Act further prohibits employers from victimizing or dismissing employees when they refuse to work in unsafe environments.
As South Africans and health centers continue to generate waste, there has been an increase in disposed of gloves and facemasks. The incorrect disposal of these items poses a risk to the health and safety of South African municipal workers.
We, therefore, call on municipalities to ensure that waste collectors and removers are given adequate PPE and to further ensure that these employees are not negligently exposed to the virus. We further remind municipalities that it is their responsibility to provide workplaces that are safe for their employees.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat
Koena Ramotlou, General Secretary (073 254 9395), Dumisane Magagula, Deputy General Secretary (084 806 4005) or Papikie Mohale, National Media Officer (073 710 0356)