Cosatu welcomes improvements to UIF's Ters application process
Cape Town - Cosatu on Friday said the Unemployment Insurance Fund's administrative capacity had been augmented to some extent as it faces a barrage of claims related to the Covid-19 crisis.
Cosatu's parliamentary representative Matthew Parks said the trade union federation was assured on Friday that the staffing component at the fund's hotline has been increased from the usual 55 to 200 as it tries to handle applications for emergency relief for employees of companies in distress.
Parks said it was with relief that Cosatu heard from applicants on Friday that they were "getting through" to the call centre after countless reports of being rebuffed. This was confirmed by its own representatives who were stress testing the system.
The accessibility of the UIF, which has R40 billion in reserve for employers and employees who find themselves in duress because of the global health crisis, has been a hot-button topic since South Africa entered one of the strictest lockdown regimes implemented globally in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The trade union federation has repeatedly flagged problems with rolling out the Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) to companies in distress due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the shut down of most of the economy.
The UIF has reserved R40 billion for Ters benefits.
But this week, concern was expressed from opposite sides of the political spectrum that it lacked the capacity to process a flood of applications.
Cosatu and the Democratic Alliance (DA) echoed each other's call for SARS to step in and help with the administration of the benefits as companies claimed that their applications were not captured because of technical difficulties.
DA labour spokesperson Michael Cardo said it was of great concern that in two weeks the UIF had only processed 136 applications for the Covid-19 Ters benefit.
"This is a disaster in the making. SARS must be brought in to assist or take over the administration of the scheme immediately.
To date, the UIF has received 36,000 applications for the Covid-19 Ters benefit, 15,755 of which are apparently duplicate applications, and only 16,534 of which are in the correct CSV file format. On Saturday, 23,000 companies were sent emails to resubmit their applications in the correct file format."
The UIF failed to respond to requests for comment on the situation on Friday.
Cardo noted that while it was important that applications needed to be valid, "many small business owners do not have the IT expertise to comply with UIF’s onerous filing requirements for the Covid-19 Ters benefit.
"Moreover, they are finding it difficult to get rapid feedback or assistance from the UIF because the institution’s systems are overwhelmed."
Cardo, and Cosatu, had argued for SARS to step in because employers paid contributions directly to the revenue service, which then disbursed these funds to the UIF, which falls under the department of labour.
African News Agency/ANA