NEHAWU Mpumalanga province statement on the infection of workers by COVID-19 and the return back to work during Level 4 Lockdown

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] in the Mpumalanga Province notes the announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa of downgrading the lockdown from level 5 to level 4 from 01st May 2020. As a result, at least 30% of the total workforce is expected to be recalled back to work during level 4 of the lockdown.

As NEHAWU in the province, we are concerned about the state of readiness by employers both in the private and public sectors across the province. Employers in the province should note that NEHAWU takes COVID-19 very seriously, and as such we are not going to donate a single life of any worker as a result of non-compliance to the Occupational Health and Safety [OHS] Act. We are extremely disturbed by the perpetually increasing number of essential workers who are getting infected with the corona virus, particularly in healthcare institutions. Currently, eleven workers are infected, seven are from public healthcare institutions while four are from private healthcare institutions.

As we continue providing support to workers who are infected by the virus, we call on employers to strengthen the Employees Health and Wellness Program (EHWP) particularly in the Department of Health. The department cannot continue operating with one professional to run such an important program which plays a fundamental role in the wellbeing of our members.  However, this does not exempt other departments, parastatals and the private sector in ensuring that the wellbeing of our members is prioritized. In this regard, we call upon all employers in the province to strengthen their employees’ health, wellness, and occupational health and safety committees whose service is mostly required in all workplaces during COVID-19. Furthermore, we call upon the Mpumalanga Department of Health to finalize without any delay the process of recruiting all the healthcare professionals who are meant to assist with the management of COVID-19.

As workers return to work we demand the employer following from employers without fail:

·       Continuous screening of workers

·       Training of workers in terms of the OHS COVID-19 regulations

·       Beefing up of the skeletal staff responsible for deep cleaning of floors and offices at intervals as regulated

·       Provision of Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs]

·       Psychotherapy support

·       Disinfection of workplaces and adherence to the regulations of COVID-19.

We will be writing to the Mpumalanga Provincial Government and all different employers from various sectors within our scope as NEHAWU in the province to demand a plan on the return to work that covers the above mentioned non-negotiable demands. In the absence of such a plan there will be no worker that will report for duty.

We are empathetic to all families who have lost their loved ones, those infected and affected by COVID-19. Indeed, the virus is very dangerous and a threat to human existence, therefore it requires all community members to adhere to the regulations as set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the South African Government. 

Issued by NEHAWU Mpumalanga Provincial Secretariat For more information contact: Cde Welcome Mnisi [Provincial Secretary] at 082 455 2897 or Cde Dimakatso Matjee [Provincial Deputy Secretary] at 082 558 5977