The Congress of South African Trade Unions is deeply troubled by the offensive that some employers are waging against workers during this national 21-day lockdown period to fight the Covid-19 virus. The whole world is reeling under the weight of the worst ever global pandemic and South African workers, like all workers of the world, are suffering the effects of this global crisis. And as with every crisis, capital is rallying by attacking the working class.
There is one major difference between South Africa and the rest of the world; this global crisis is worsening the already existing triple crisis of mass poverty, widespread unemployment and extreme inequalities in South Africa.
In the workplace, the attack is being effected through retrenchments, non-payment of salaries, and attempts are being made to undermine trade union rights, including collective bargaining and employers taking unilateral decisions without consultations.
Thousands of workers have been left impoverished because they are not able to file their UIF benefit applications for the COVID-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme.
Some employers have deserted their workers, despite a plea by President Cyril Ramaphosa for employers to look after their own employees during this 21-day lockdown. This total relinquishment of obligations by these employers has exacerbated the difficulties that these workers are experiencing during this challenging and uncertain period.
We demand an urgent intervention by the Department of Employment and Labour. The department and the Minister of Employment and Labour should act to admonish the employers who have resorted to just issuing blank UIF application forms to workers forcing them to individually apply for the UIF benefits themselves.
The Federation calls for the Minister of Labour to compel employers to take the responsibility of filing for UIF benefits on behalf of their employees, who are losing income as a result of the lockdown. An agreement was reached at Nedlac and undertaking was made that companies will apply on behalf of their employees.
COSATU finds this disdainful mistreatment of workers intolerable, especially because the same employers are demanding and benefitting from state offered financial and other interventions that have been offered to them.
The department of Labour needs to be both legally audacious and uncompromisingly aggressive against these employers or else workers will not survive this government-imposed lockdown. Workers should not be punished for something that is not of their own doing.
We commit ourselves to constantly working to improve the service that we as unions provide our members, and to fight against attempts by employers to promote employer unilateralism.
We reiterate our concerns for the government, especially the department of labour to ensure that the legitimate concerns of the workers are promptly addressed, and that maximum solidarity is extended to the most vulnerable in our society.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794