COSATU offers its support for the victims of the George tragedy

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) offers its support for the victims of the George tragedy.  We wish the survivors a speedy recovery and the affected families, particularly for those who have passed away, all the strength during this difficult period.

COSATU’s Provincial Leadership has been at the scene in George and is in close contact with the Department of Employment and Labour as well as the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Fund to ensure justice is done and the relief due to the workers and families is expedited.

This horrific incident is a painful reminder that whilst we have progressive labour and building laws, many employers blatantly defy them and workers pay the price for this criminal neglect on a daily basis.

It is clear this construction site failed the most basic of health and safety regulations.  We are disturbed by reports indicating the company employed undocumented workers and most likely was not in compliance with their legal obligations under Occupational Health and Safety, Basic Conditions of Employment, Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases as well as Unemployment Insurance Acts.  This is exactly why the Democratic Alliance’s proposals to exempt 90% of employers from all our labour laws are so dangerous.

It is highly likely the employer deliberately chose not to register these workers for the Unemployment or Compensation Funds.  These workers and their families may now be at risk of not receiving the compensation they are legally due.  The Department and the Funds must pay these workers what they should have received had they been registered and fetch the monies owned by this delinquent employer.

We believe this employer has shown criminal neglect to these workers and must be charged by the South African Police Service, arrested and brought before court.  We cannot accept that whilst workers have died and many remain trapped under 3000 tonnes of rubble, that the employer can be allowed to continue as usual. 

The Federation is deeply worried about allegations of an unhealthy relationship between the company owners and the George Municipality.  It is critical the Department appoint an independent judicial enquiry into this horrific tragedy, including indications the Municipality failed to apply building and employment laws and if there is a corrupt relationship between the company and any politicians in the Municipality.

Workers deserve better.  Government must act.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:

Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator 
Cell: 082 785 0687