Farm workers accuse Department of Labour

GroundUp reports that farm workers in Eastern Cape accuse the Department of Labour of doing very little to inspect farms and enforce the law. This and other complaints were voiced when about 80 farm workers gathered on the weekend in Dan Sandi Community Hall in Patensie. The meeting was arranged by the Kouga Farmworkers Reunion and the Eastern Cape Department of Labour. Workers said labour officials took unacceptably long to attend to complaints of abuse, bad working conditions, unfair dismissals, illegal evictions, and delays in receiving Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payments.

An official from the Department of Labour, who said he was not allowed to be quoted in the media, told the workers that he would start inspecting farms soon. He said the Gamtoos River and Sundays River Valley areas were priority areas. Sharlene Mathews of EC AgriSA said, “I cannot comment on cases where there are no names of the farmers and employees affected, but farmers know the process of evicting people and its consequences if wrongly done.”

by Joseph Chirume

Home Affairs to increase staff capacity

SABC News reports that Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele says they are planning to increase staff capacity at all ports of entry during the Easter weekend. Briefing the media in Pretoria, Cwele announced the operational hour’s extension to selected ports of entry across the country. He says the Department plans to deploy additional staff members to ports of entry that are already on 24 hours operation shift.

Cwele says all Departments including SAPS, SARS, Health, State Security Agency and Defence which are members of the Border Management Authority Operations Task Team, are ready to discharge their mandate starting from next week Wednesday until after Easter weekend. The minister urged all road users to obey the general rules of the road and not to drink and drive. Cwele says a large contingent of law enforcement will also patrol the national roads and ports of entry.

Cape clothing industry set to get major funding boost

Cape Argus reports that the Cape garment and textile industry, once the backbone of job creation in the province, is set for a major boost with funding from the provincial government. The provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism will allocate R132million in funding to stimulate the industry and create new jobs.  MEC of Economic Opportunities, Beverley Schäfer, said: “We import too much and we produce too little. As a country, our imports of clothing, textiles and leather goods have rocketed from just over R5billion in 2000 to almost R60bn now.”

Schäfer said African labour was considerably cheaper than elsewhere in the world. According to Wesgro, the manufacturing industry in the Western Cape accounts for about 15% of the province’s economy and employs about 10% of the province’s workforce. Shaun Kirby, the senior project manager at the Cape Clothing and Textile Cluster, said: “The manufacturing sector remains a core industry where a number of jobs are created We need to position local manufacturers to distribute goods that the Chinese market can’t.” The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union said that too much importing could mean the end of the industry.

by Marvin Charles

Policy in pipeline to test health workers annually for TB

Sowetan reports that all doctors and nurses could soon be subjected to annual TB tests as health minister Aaron Motsoaledi ups the ante on the rampant infection. Speaking at the University of Cape Town (UCT) last week, Motsoaledi said the long-awaited policy to protect health workers against TB could become a reality after the 8 May elections.  He indicated:  “We must have health workers tested, maybe once a year, because many of them are vulnerable to TB … We think that the time has come, and we believe that very soon we will be introducing that policy and health workers must be tested once a year.”  The policy, which has been in the pipeline for three years, will seek to address the fact that the TB infection rate of 21% among SA health workers is second only to China’s rate of 30%.

Motsoaledi also said the country would start screening every clinic patient in an effort to identify the 160,000 TB patients believed to be undiagnosed, untreated and infectious.  The health department has already started intensifying its TB contact-tracing programme, which Motsoaledi said must include health workers who were at high risk of infection.  The SA Medical Association (SAMA) welcomed Motsoaledi’s proposal in respect of testing, but suggested it should apply to everyone who worked in clinics and hospitals, including cleaners.  TB is the leading cause of death in SA and affects 60% of HIV-positive people.

by Sipokazi Fokazi
Ref: SA Labour News

Unions point to contributing factors leading to high levels of teacher absenteeism

The Citizen reports that although teachers’ unions don’t condone the shocking figures of absenteeism among their members, there are a number of contributing factors that lead to their absence and these need to be addressed in order to ensure 10% of classrooms aren’t left teacherless daily. Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga released the findings of the 2017 School Monitoring Survey (SMS) in Pretoria yesterday, and pointed out that the trend of teacher absenteeism from classrooms throughout South Africa is marginally growing, and remains a cause for concern.

The last time this report was published was in 2011.  The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general-secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said that although the union did not support or condone absenteeism, certain contributors like violence and depression could not be evaded. “There is violence in schools that [teachers] need to deal with and they are helpless because they lack support from government. There is also a high level of sickness among teachers who experience depression,” Maluleke said. National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) general-secretary, Basil Manuel, said it was important to contextualise and understand the sub-optimal conditions teachers worked in. “We do acknowledge there are some who are those who take advantage, but there are those who have valid reasons,” said Manuel.

by Chisom Jenniffer Okoye

Shoprite in Mbombela sacks 36 employees

Sowetan Live writes that at least 36 Shoprite Checkers workers in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, have been fired after they protested against the dismissal of four of their colleagues for “accepting tips from customers”. The group staged a protest at the supermarket last Friday after learning of the fate of their colleagues a few days before. Now, the dismissed workers are demanding to be reinstated.

South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union Mpumalanga regional general secretary David Tefo said workers embarked on an illegal strike to prevent Shoprite from enforcing disciplinary proceedings against their four colleagues. “Despite this, we also found that the employer failed to serve them with letters nor were they subjected to fair disciplinary processes and procedures,” Tefo said. Shoprite confirmed that the employees were dismissed for partaking in an unlawful work stoppage.

by Tankiso Makhetha

Harmony Gold mineworker dies after fall-of-ground incident

Mining Weekly reports that a 38-year-old mineworker died on Monday at Harmony Gold Mining Company in Doornkop, outside Johannesburg. This, after a fall-of-ground incident at the mine, the company said in a statement. It is investigating the incident. The company’s management sent condolences to the deceased’s family, friends and colleagues.

Police confirmed an inquest docket was opened. “It is alleged that a woman, aged 38, was working at the mine when the rock fell on her. Police have opened an inquest docket for investigation,” police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said.

Miners in Mpumalanga’s Coal Belt abandoned

eNCA reports that miners in Mpumalanga’s Coal Belt have been left destitute for months.  The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said its members are not receiving any support from the government. Optimum Coal NUM deputy branch secretary, Reuben Malibe said workers have not received their salaries in months.

“The business practitioner says they are engaging with AE – African exploration, they are going to inject R1-billion into Optimum. But there are a lot of Interdicts in the court by Guptas. To our surprise, the Guptas stole this mine by using Eskom money,” said Malibe. “We are appealing to government let judiciary to see the plight of the workers. And try and block interdict. Workers are not eating with the interdict but could be with the money that must come forward.”

SATAWU disappointed at SA Express failure to consult on job cuts

South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) is disappointed to read that state-owned airline, SA Express, intends to downsize its staff. According to an article in City Press, the regional airline’s board has approved a plan by acting CEO Siza Mzimela to cut jobs. Mzimela is said to have made a presentation to a board committee arguing that the ratio of 822 employees to 10 aircraft is an indication the airline is overstaffed. The founder of the now defunct airline, Fly Blue Crane, explained she was aiming for a staff to aircraft ratio of 25; SA Express is currently sitting at 56.  As a union representing workers at the airline, SATAWU is disappointed we had to read about the plan to cut jobs in the media.

When we met Mzimela and another member of the task team charged with reviving the airline after it was grounded last May, we were assured retrenchment was not on the cards and we would be advised were the situation to change. By targeting workers instead of ensuring the remaining seven aircraft are compliant with South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) safety standards, Mzimela is picking low-hanging fruit. This tends to happen with managers who lack ideas and are overwhelmed by the task at hand. Moreover, deciding to downsize the staff compliment without consulting social partners to explore alternatives is an indictment on management. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of the importance of strategic social partners.  SATAWU will request a meeting with SA Express to discuss this latest development. As far as retrenchment is concerned, we will address it as a labour relations matter because that is precisely what it is.

Families of dead Lily Mine workers lay culpable homicide charges against mine directors

City Press reports that families of three miners, who were buried underground when a Mpumalanga mine collapsed in 2016, have laid culpable homicide charges against Vantage Goldfields SA (VGSA) directors this week. The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) was expected to have done so after concluding its inquiry into the disaster at Lily Mine in March 2018, but it did not. DMR only handed a report to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in August 2018 which it said had recommendations for prosecution but the NPA could do nothing about it because there was no police docket.

The entrance of Lily Mine in Louisville near Barberton collapsed on February 5 2016. Yvonne Mnisi (30), Pretty Nkambule (22) and Solomon Nyirenda (39) – who were working in a lamp office, plunged underground and were never to be found. DMR spokesperson Ayanda Shezi still avoided providing clarity on why the department had been reluctant to lay charges with the police after completing the inquiry.

by Sizwe Yende