“Municipalities in the Northern Cape have not come to the party in protecting and ensuring the health and safety of workers,” says Samwu.
THE SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) in the Northern Cape has urged municipalities in the Province to provide all employees with Covid-19 allowances.
Samwu provincial secretary Lawrence Fernie said the union was concerned that essential municipal workers were risking their lives on a daily basis without adequate protection.
“Of great concern to the union is that despite the pandemic claiming the lives of many workers, municipalities in the Province have not come to the party in protecting and ensuring the health and safety of workers in the workplace. Non-essential workers who are made to work during the national lockdown should be entitled to Covid-19 allowances. We will encourage members to withdraw their labour if their lives are in danger,” Fernie said on Monday.
He said that Hantam, Joe Morolong, Ubuntu and Kareeberg are the only municipalities in the Province that have concluded Covid-19 payment allowances for workers.
“Hantam was paying the allowance since the start of the lockdown last year, while Ubuntu, Joe Morolong and Kareeberg municipalities have recently backdated payments.”
Fernie added that municipalities appeared to be delaying concluding or negotiating Covid-19 allowances for workers in the Province.
“This is despite a communique from the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) urging municipalities to meet with organised labour to quantify the amount which should be given to workers.
“The majority of municipalities are not meeting with organised labour as required on a monthly basis.”
He said that workers faced grave risks if they were not provided with personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The union urges all workers to refuse to work if they have not been provided with the necessary PPE for the safe execution of their duties. The health and safety of workers remains the responsibility of the employer and, as such, workers’ health and safety cannot be compromised or negotiated, it’s a matter of implementation.”
Fernie indicated that the union would approach the equity court if workers were exposed to any violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act
“We will further be involving the Labour Department and Cosatu in ensuring that all municipalities and water boards in the Province provide a healthy and safe working environment for all workers.”
He also claimed that it was “worrying” that ANC deployees at municipalities were “hellbent on undermining workers’ rights to belong to a trade union.”
“As the provincial executive committee of Samwu, we are concerned that municipalities are still continuing with their thieving tendencies, wherein they deduct money from workers’ salaries but never pay it over to third parties such as unions, medical aid, funeral policies and pension funds.
“This practise is nothing short of criminal, it is equal to pickpocketing workers, leaving them with policies that lapse as a result of non-payment.”
Fernie said further that they would not hesitate to open criminal charges if this practise continued.
“We are also concerned by the strained relations between the union and the ANC in the Province. This is further perpetuated by the failure or non-availability of the ANC when issues affecting workers should be addressed.
“We can only conclude that the ANC does not take the union, its members and workers seriously. Workers cannot only be needed when it is time for elections … but when their issues need to be addressed the ANC is nowhere to be found.”