SACCAWU, a registered trade union follows in the course of preventive measures and on warnings issued by the different states across the globe and in particular the address to the nation by the President of the Republic, in which a range of precautionary measures were outlined. Noting that the complete clinical picture with regard to COVID19 continues to change as we experience more and more case, we know for a fact that reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death in other parts of the world. In the context of the Trade Union movement, our members, officials and leadership are exposed, for our primary work environment compels us to interact with the public and customers as members at workplaces, whilst for both as leadership and officials we travel extensively.

Like everyone all over the world, SACCAWU is equally concerned over rapid rise in reported cases thus far, since this presents a new challenge and greater potential for fatalities. By way of enhancing existing strategies, we wish to encourage Government, in particular the Ministry of Health, to continue efforts aimed at improving data and stats collation and presentation and to include aspects such as, but not limited to; new cases reported as well as locations, state of responsiveness to medication administered, cases where number of admitted and later discharged with clean bill of health be populated which we are not doing currently. This will provide the nation with a sense of hope that, even though one can fall victim of infection, the health systems and infrastructure of South African Government can ably stand the test of illnesses of this magnitude and that reported cases do not necessarily lead to fatality.

As we, the nation, continue to inquire about everlasting solutions in a global sense, we have since realized that there are pertinent responses which ought to guide the Trade Union movement, as we strive to do our business whilst at the same time want to ensure safety where ever we go. We note that some employers have seen the situation as an opportunity to unilaterally engage in laying off workers, imposing “self-isolation” on workers and closing businesses without following any due process or doing so to as a mere means of compliance with legislation. This culminates in workers having to carry the responsibility and shoulder the whole financial impact of the COVID19 consequences since such lay-offs self-isolations/quarantines are without pay and by extension with loss of all benefits. No efforts are applied to mitigate the implications of such loss of pay and benefits on workers’ financial obligations and liability elsewhere, including providing for their families. Leading the pack in this inconsiderate unilateralism is Massmart who have all of a sudden issued a 24 hours’ notice of closing stores whilst the parties are still locked in section 189 Consultations. This is not a surprise as we have maintained throughout the proceedings that the company is just going through the motions and had already decided on the alleged “proposed” closures.

We demand the employers cease all acts of unilateralism disguised as interventions to prevent the spread of COVID19 whilst in fact the companies are pursuing cost saving measures at the expense of workers. Should this not stop, we will be left with no option but engage in struggles, which includes industrial action to defend our members and protect their interests!

Thus we wish to engage as in this economic sector specific (Commercial, Catering and Allied trades) on the following:

Wholesale and Retail: We intend to start debate with employers to increase access for workers to basic sanitary equipments, for we observed throughout workplaces that, either there is no supply for workers or what is provided is of poor quality. To this end we wish to warn and remind employers of importance of a worker’s life for the success of their respective businesses, but, more than anything these workers are pillars and providers of their families. We are aware that, no death has been reported in the organized economic sectors, but, this warning is provoked by our observation.

Hospitality and Hotels: It is known that this business operation attracts guests from all walks of life in line with their primary domestic and international tourism space of trade, but, so far we observed poor prevention standards that are set for protection of workers who might come in contact with both guests and fellow employees. It is our conceived understanding that, if employer were serious in this economic sector much more preventative measures could be in place to avert possible infection and spread of  COVID-19 and or related pandemic.

Work Schedules: As we all know, we are organized in both vulnerable workers sector and wherein all forms of atypical employment are prevalent which outweigh formal employment standards. To this end we wish to warn therefore that, workers should not be prejudiced by reduction of hours worked arising from unfair work-schedule practices resulting to unjustly or unplanned wage cuts. Where work is reduced, salary must not reduce.

Traveling by Officials and Leadership: Although our crucial work is travel intensive. We must find ways and means to restrain where possible planned large gatherings and general traveling where possible.

Panic Bulk-buying: Whilst we embrace numerous responses aimed at averting possible spread of COVID-19 and or related pandemic, we find it rather strange that, particular commercial principle aimed at maximization of profit would find expression in the form campaigns such as bulk-buying. This has a potential of the common disadvantages to buying food in bulk is food being wasted because people forget about it. This situation often leads to the food being well beyond its expiration date. Then, the bulk food becomes old, stale, and mouldy. As a result, the food is tossed out. Buying food in bulk provides people with the false perception that they are receiving savings with all things being equal. This perception leads to people sacrificing quality in the food they consume.

Public Transport: Generally; our members are prejudiced due to their economic status to over reliance to public transport which is mainly taxis, buses and trains wherein potential for prevalence of infection or affected is perceived to be very high, possible spread of COVID-19 and or related pandemic strike is equally high. Despite the public pronouncement on the part of Government for possible interventions, we remain hopeful that, such intervention could be administered with urgency and speed that is required, for further delays in respect of these promised interventions can only mean sustained risk to lives of millions of our members and the public at large. We are trying to figure out how the maximum 100 people directive must be administered particularly at public transport hubs, ranks and stations. This includes Airports as these are people intensive spots and easily occupied by more than 100 people at any given time.

In conclusion: We embrace all other drastic preventative measures that are populated as stated in media by the State, range of Civil Organizations, NGOs, Religious Groupings, business and communities in general. SACCAWU says to those who affected and infected, you are in our thoughts and prayers and we wish them all speedy recovery. Whilst we encourage everyone in the health sector for demonstration of love and care to the nation, and to this end, we salute you all for perseverance you demonstrated thus far.  

Issued by SACCAWU Media Desk

Mike Michael Bonile Sikani