Home South African Workers allegedly dismissed over Covid-19 relief payments

Workers allegedly dismissed over Covid-19 relief payments

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Dept blames employers for hold up in UIF Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme payments

File picture: IOL

AS MANY employees threaten to down tools due to delays in Covid-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) payments, the Department of Labour has placed the blame on employers for causing the hold up by not providing the necessary documents required. 

UIF spokesperson Makhosonke Buthelezi denied that the fund was facing a backlog causing dire stress and suffering to millions of workers who have been affected by salary cuts and lay-offs due to the Covid-19 lockdown. 

He said: “These issues are for the employer to resolve. We do indicate what the employer needs to do and provide e-mails where information can be sent.

“We do not have backlogs in relation to applications where the information is valid and complete.” 

Buthelezi said there were a variety of reasons for the delays, but these are the upper most reasons:

* The employer indicates that the salary received during the shutdown period is more or equal to the normal salary. When you apply for the benefit, the employer should indicate if he/she will be paying a portion or not paying at all. If he/she pays the portion, then our top-up should not be more than R6 700, which is the maximum UIF payment. So, if the employer reflects the salary he’s going to pay during lockdown as R6 700 or more; then UIF cannot pay. The reason will be given on the payment schedule.

* Invalid ID – this means the ID might be missing a number.

* ID number not found – this is when the form of identification is not the SA 13 digit ID number.

* Applicant has active claim within UIF – this is when the employee has another claim, for example, an unemployment benefit claim or maternity claim that was never closed by the employer.

* Entities registered after March 15, 2020 do not qualify for UIF TERS benefits.

Last month, more than seven employees at a company named Premium Ideas (PTY) (LTD) in the Gauteng region were allegedly fired for their active part in pressurising the company to pay them their TERS which they claimed to have not received till to date. 

Themba Tema, Mxolisi Mbokweni, Thabang Phaleng, Bennet Katisi, Galaletsang Kgwakgwa, Kwazi Xulu and Confidence Keetse were all allegedly dismissed for organising and leading a strike demanding that they be paid their TERS benefits.

Among other charges, they were accused of failing to practise social distancing as a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Katisi dismissed the charges as a mere witch-hunt for their persistent demand to get their TERS benefits paid. 

He said: “We are being targeted for asking the employer to give us our money which the government paid us through the employer. 

“They have manufactured charges so that it looks legitimate. We have not been practising social distancing from the beginning, and what makes them want to punish us now?

“Even if we wanted to practise social distancing, it would not be possible because we have three shifts, and each shift consists of 112 employees using one machine to produce a SIM card,” Katisi added.

Premium Ideas’ head of human resource (HR), Siphelele Khanyile, confirmed the dismissal of the employees and said the disciplinary hearings were fair. 

“There are employee protections, both in the company and outside, including union representation and their right to refer matters to the CCMA. If any employees feel we have operated unfairly, we encourage them to refer the matter to the CCMA,” said Khanyile.

“We deny that we have, in any way, defrauded TERS or our employees. We have operated in good faith, paying employees before the TERS programme was announced, paid funds up front for the TERS benefit, of which we have been paid,” added Khanyile.

Rich’s Products Corporate Africa, one of the largest confectionery producers, is also among the companies being accused by its employees of defrauding them of their TERS.  

More than fifty-three of the hundred employees have not received TERS while 58 claim to have received less than what they were supposed to get.

The employees also alleged that they were forced to take unpaid leave during lockdown.

They also claim that they did not receive their basic salary as well as their TERS.

But Rich’s CEO, Elizabeth Kobilski, dismissed the allegations and said the employees have received Covid-19 TERS for the month of April and all monies received have been paid. 

“An amount of R183 150.93 was returned to the department on June 12, 2020. This payment was for employees who did not qualify for Covid-19 UIF TERS as they had worked during the month of April and were paid by the company,” Kobilski said.