As the number of positive Covid-19 cases increase at Beefmaster in Kimberley, about 50 workers are allegedly on suspension for refusing to work until the premises were decontaminated, after two staff members had tested positive.
AS THE number of positive Covid-19 cases increase at Beefmaster in Kimberley, about 50 workers are allegedly on suspension for refusing to work on July 8 unless the premises were decontaminated, after two staff members had tested positive.
The workers believe that their rights were violated after they refused to return to work unless conditions improved.
The employees claim that they were targeted for expressing concern regarding their health and safety.
They pointed out that instead of receiving counselling, screening and testing on July 10 following the first two positive cases, as per an apparent agreement with Cosatu, they were expected to return to work.
Beefmaster, however, has refuted claims that any of its workers have been suspended.
Beefmaster Group CEO Louw van Reenen said on Tuesday that eight employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Of these, two have fully recovered and are back at work, while the remainder are recuperating at home,” said Van Reenen.
“Beefmaster Group complies with all Covid-19 health and safety regulations and has taken stringent preventative measures to ensure the safety of staff.
“We will continue to screen employees and adhere to all protocols as per our Covid-19 risk adjusted workplace plan and guidelines from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the Department of Health to ensure that risks of infection are mitigated.”
One of the workers from the group who claim to be suspended, said on Tuesday that he was still at home waiting for a call, “as promised by the employer”, after he refused to sign an admission of guilt letter.
He stated that instead of being counselled and screened, those who had refused to enter the workplace were summoned to hearings.
“On the Friday (July10) we refused to work and left, as we were left to stand outside unattended. The following day, we came back and our names were written on a list.”
Another worker stated that only some employees were called to report for duty on the Saturday and Sunday.
“The following week we were called for disciplinary hearings, during which some of us were told not to return to work,” the worker said.
Cosatu condemned Beefmaster’s alleged infringement of the Covid-19 regulations, and vowed that it would follow up on the matter.
Cosatu provincial secretary Orapeleng Moraladi said the workers were within their rights to refuse to enter the workplace if social distancing was not being observed by the employer.
“We will continue to engage with the employer to ensure that those suspensions are lifted and the victimised workers are reinstated,” said Moraladi.