NEHAWU Statement On Government's Decision To Move The Country COVID-19 Lockdown Level Three
Monday May 25, 2020
The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] notes the statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing the decision by the National Coronavirus Command Council to move the country to Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown levels from the 1st June 2020 as part of government’s Risk Adjusted Strategy.
The announcement of the downgrade takes place amidst growing numbers of infections and mortalities. As things stand, there 22 583 positive cases identified and 429 deaths while testing continues to take place on a daily basis. These numbers necessitates that more stringent and effective plans to combat the spread of COVID-19 are put in place as a matter of urgency. The national union calls for more screening and testing to take place especially in townships and rural areas so as to ascertain the true extent of the spread of the virus.
More still needs to be done in arresting and containing the spread of the virus especially on frontline workers who are the bedrock of our national response and our first line of defence. NEHAWU will urgently engage government to make it illegal for employers to compel workers to work without Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs].
We welcome government’s approach of protecting the health of our people while also protecting people’s jobs and livelihoods. We are in favour of the two pronged approach that seeks to kick-start the economy while also putting measures in place to provide access to healthcare during the pandemic. The coronavirus has caused unprecedented damages to the economy coupled with an unacceptable number of deaths, job losses, and loss of personal income of millions of our people. In this regard, we support our federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU], in calling for a bold and decisive supplementary budget that must be driven by the motive to retain jobs and kick-start the economy. Moreover, we hope that the Minister of Finance will use that opportunity to do the right thing and make money available to honour the last leg of Resolution 1 of 2018 especially clause 3.3 as signed at the bargaining council.
We also welcome the commitment to monitor and revaluate the lockdown status of hotspot provinces like Gauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape. The national union will intensify its awareness campaign including ensuring the compliance to all health safety measures in workplaces and educational institutions. We will continue to encourage all South Africans to obey lockdown regulations including the wearing of masks, washing of hands and observing social distancing at all times.
On the return to work of public servants
Under level three most of our members who are public servants will be returning to work on the 1st June 2020. NEHAWU will monitor the state of readiness of workplaces and will not hesitate to stop workers from returning from workplaces that are not safe. We note government’s assurance that they will do everything possible to protect our members and workers. However, we remain very sceptical as our government has proven to be very unreliable and untrustworthy as demonstrated by their refusal to fully implement binding collective bargaining agreements.
As most workers will be returning to works as part of the Risk Adjusted Strategy NEHAWU calls on employers to ensure the following:
- Disinfection of workplaces before workers occupy them
- Limit staff compliment to ensure social distancing
- Sufficient PPEs and sanitisers
- Training on the proper and safe use of PPEs
- Regular screening of workers
- Training of workers on infection control and prevention
- Promotion of high standards of hygiene and clean ablution facilities
- Allow workers over the age of 60 and those with comorbidities to work from home
The employer has an obligation to provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and without risk to the health of workers as per dictates of the Occupational Health and Safety [OHS] Act as amended. In this regard, the national union will continue to monitor the compliance to OHS standards by healthcare facilities and will report transgressors to the Department of Employment and Labour and the police for criminal charges. NEHAWU reiterates its call for inspectors to enforce and monitor compliance by frequenting workplaces and exposing transgressors.
On higher education
We note the announcement by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, that 33% of students will be returning to campuses during level three. Moreover, we note the engagements planned for later this week with trade unions on the opening of campuses. NEHAWU will participate fully, however, we will not allow our members, workers and students to return to post schooling institutions without the fulfilment of the following demands:
- Disinfection of all buildings 5 days prior to workers and students coming to campus.
- Provision of masks, gloves and sanitizers.
- Mobile clinics for screening and testing.
- Establishment of Occupational Health and Safety committees in each workplace in line with the law.
We continue to have continuous engagements with our reliable ally, the South African Congress of Students [SASCO], on the role the student-worker alliance can play in mitigating the dangers of the pandemic in our campuses.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969;
Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500
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