Home South African Municipalities sending workers to Covid-19 ‘slaughterhouses’ – union

Municipalities sending workers to Covid-19 ‘slaughterhouses’ – union

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Samwu says there has been a sharp increase in municipal workers testing positive for the coronavirus

THE SOUTH African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) said on Thursday that municipalities across the country have been failing “dismally” to protect the health and safety of their workers, including the failure to provide them with the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for the safe execution of their duties.

“This failure by municipalities has resulted in a sharp increase in municipal workers testing positive for Covid-19, a reality which has begun to cause panic and alarm in the local government sector,” said Samwu general secretary Koena Ramotlou.

“In line with the government regulation prohibiting gatherings, on May 6 the union held a telephonic special national executive committee (SNEC) which was attended by all provincial structures and the union’s national office-bearers to, among others, receive reports from structures on the readiness and preparedness of municipalities to recall workers as the country has already moved to Level 4 of the lockdown,” said Ramotlou.

He said the SNEC was also convened to formulate the union’s response to issues including the Covid-19 pandemic, the Municipal Solidarity Fund, collective bargaining, organisational matters and the response to Covid-19 in the workplace.

“The SNEC has noted with serious concern the attitude and posture of the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has failed, as a minister who is the custodian of the country’s municipalities, to ensure that there is compliance to the regulations which her department has formulated,” said Ramotlou.

“Our pleas to get the minister to intervene in instances where municipalities have been failing on their constitutional mandates have not been responded to, thus creating an environment wherein municipalities are deliberately sending municipal workers to slaughterhouses.”

Ramotlou added that with the easing of restrictions and a move to Level 4 of the lockdown, which has resulted in municipal workers being recalled to work, South Africans should be concerned because the same municipalities failed to ensure the health and safety of workers during Level 5 of the lockdown. Samwu warned that the situation will only worsen for workers, with the likelihood of an increase in the number of registered positive cases.

“To make matters worse, municipalities have deliberately been hiding the true reality being faced by residents and municipal workers by manipulating the exact numbers of positive infections among municipal workers. The number of positive cases among workers continue to rise, particularly in the Western Cape, which now accounts for almost 50% of the country’s positive cases and a majority of them being found in the epicentre of the pandemic, being the City of Cape Town,” said Ramotlou.

“Instead of addressing the challenges faced by the city and ensuring the health and safety of workers, the City of Cape Town mayor Dan Plato has threatened to lay a criminal charge against the union and a newspaper publication which reported on the contents of the statements we released exposing the true extent of the pandemic and the lies being peddled by the city.”

Ramotlou said Samwu remains “undeterred and unshaken” and would not be silenced by the City of Cape Town or any municipality.

“They should go ahead and lay those charges. While they are at it, they should tell the courts and the nation the real reasons for the deceit and lies they have been peddling in an attempt to cover up the true extent faced by the city and, in particular, municipal workers,” he said.

On Tuesday, Independent Media released a statement, saying it had read Plato’s statement, where the mayor threatened to open a case in response to an article that appeared on the front page of the Weekend Argus on Saturday, May 2.

“The article in question dealt with the closure of the city’s controversial lockdown shelter situated at the Strandfontein Sports Complex and the phased removal of those who had been contained within its confines. From the get-go, this shelter has provoked immense concern from residents, civil rights groups and opposition political parties, largely concerning their observation of its infringements of human rights. This aspect has been extensively covered by all media groups in South Africa,” said Independent Media.

“Independent Media’s role is to report on the facts and convey the news to its constituents. It believes it has done so in this case. Independent Media offered the City of Cape Town a right of reply, which was undertaken by Alderman JP Smith and is noted in the article. The statement issued on behalf of the executive mayor is somewhat contradictory and also makes a mockery of the highly credible organisations quoted in the article.”

Independent Media said it therefore firmly stands by its reporter, its editor, those who provided comment, as well as the gist of the story itself.

“Additionally, the mayor is incorrect in his assumption that Independent Media does not have a press ombudsman. There is, in fact, a complaints process in place and an internal ombudsman, just like most media companies around the world. Details on how to contact Independent’s ombudsman are freely available on the website. No attempt was made by the City of Cape Town,” the media company said in its statement.

– African News Agency (ANA)