Retrenched airport staff still waiting for payout
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Durban – FORMER King Shaka International Airport workers who were retrenched during the Covid-19 lockdown have claimed they are still waiting for their employer, BidAir, to pay out their provident fund.
However, BidAir’s holding firm, Bidvest Group, said this week the provident fund payout process for workers who had been retrenched took several weeks and about 85% of former staff had been paid their provident funds.
Two BidAir employees, who spoke to The Mercury on condition of anonymity, said they had been retrenched during lockdown and were paid out their severance pay but not their substantial retirement savings.
One staff member, who has worked for the firm for more than 10 years, said her last day of work had been March 27, the first day of the national State of Disaster, and she was finally retrenched on August 31.
She said she had received her final salary at the end of April followed by two temporary employer-employee relief scheme (Ters) payments of R2 000.
However, she said she had not received her provident fund payment.
“I have kids and a car I need to pay for, and they said they were going to give us the provident fund and it would take four to six weeks, but we are still waiting. The thing that is stressing me out a lot is that I can’t even go and claim for UIF because they said we need to get Ters first or the system will crash,” she said.
“We are struggling to survive. Some of us got the money and others are still waiting for the provident fund.”
She claimed she struggled to get an answer from the firm as to exactly when the payment would be made as its human resources department was poorly resourced due to retrenchment.
Another former employee, a single mother who worked for BidAir for five years, said she was also still waiting for her provident fund payout.
She claimed the firm had pushed her from pillar to post when she tried to investigate the delay.
She signed her retrenchment forms on August 18.
“The worst thing is we are not getting Ters. We are not getting anything. There is no income. We can’t pay our rent and there is no money for food,” she said.
She added she lived alone and was relying on her friends to assist her with groceries.
Bidvest Group said in a statement this week the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration had facilitated the retrenchment process across its BidAir Services businesses, which had been concluded at the end of September.
“On conclusion of the consultations, all retrenched staff received their severance packages by the end of September.
“The provident fund claims process takes four to six weeks to conclude, and the administrators have settled about 85% of all payouts,” the firm said.
“They are working on receiving all paperwork relating to tax directives from Sars, and we are confident that the remaining 15% of payouts will be settled by the end of November, despite the scale of the undertaking.”
Bidvest’s human resources director, Sipho Mawelele, said the firm had endeavoured to assist employees with UIF Ters applications and follow-ups.
“We have worked tirelessly with our union partners to ensure that the Department of Labour (DOL) receives all the requisite information and that our employees receive their benefits,” Mawelele said.
“We are also in constant communication with a dedicated representative from DOL, who was assigned by the commissioner to assist with regard to any outstanding Ters payments. Covid19 is unlike anything experienced in the past and our industry has been hardest hit by travel restrictions,” he said.
Bidvest said it had also established a R400 million Covid-19 Employee Benefit Fund to assist the 75% of employees within the group who had been unable to work during lockdown, and that BidAir staff had benefited.