Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Covid-19 in SA: Essential workers in danger pay bid

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published May 7, 2020

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Johannesburg - Thousands of municipal employees designated as essential service workers could soon be paid a danger allowance related to Covid-19.

The SA Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) has told the country’s 257 municipalities to enter into talks with the two recognised trade unions in the sector - the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) - to discuss the possibility of danger allowances.

According to the SALGBC, the existing agreement does not cater for such payments.

However, the bargaining council has advised municipalities to find an amicable solution and identify employees within the essential service designation who are exposed to dangers or hazards related to the deadly coronavirus and compensate them through the payment of danger allowances.

”The parties at a national level have agreed, in principle, to consider and discuss a compensatory framework and matters incidental thereto once the lockdown is over. Parties must also try and identify the procedure to be applied to compensate such employees through the payment of a danger allowance,” said SALGBC general secretary Bill Govender in correspondence to municipal managers and workers.

Parties to the SALGBC are Samwu, Imatu and the SA Local Government Association.

Govender said the discussion would include the form of compensation to be given to workers and the recognition of employees directly exposed to the dangers of the disease.

The compensatory framework is set to be discussed after the termination of the lockdown as the parties will need to obtain mandates from their constituencies.

The Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of SA has demanded that municipalities immediately pay danger or safety allowances of R7 000 to all essential service workers who have been operating during the lockdown and that they must pay a minimum or no tax level for the allowance.

Public servants at the forefront of the government’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic also demanded danger allowances last month.

This followed an agreement reached between the country’s biggest public-sector union, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to take public servants’ demands to the National Economic Development and Labour Council after termination of the national lockdown.

The government currently pays standard and special danger allowances to various categories of its employees.

The standard danger allowance is R474 a month, which increases to R709 monthly as a special danger allowance.

Qualifying employees include nurses working with psychiatric patients, prison warders involved in duties that require direct contact with maximum security prisoners or who are part of the reaction unit, certain identified emergency services personnel and other health-related staff working with prisoners, juveniles in child and youth care centres as well as parolees, among others.

The Public Servants Association also asked Mkhize’s department to consider paying danger allowances for employees delivering services to the public in the face of the pandemic, after being inundated with calls from members who are exposed to an compromising working environment in relation to Covid-19.

Nurses in the Eastern Cape who are Nehawu members protested last month, demanding danger allowances.

Meanwhile, the Presidency said yesterday that public and staff access to the Union Buildings was limited after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus.

“In line with the government’s guidelines on the management of Covid-19 cases, steps have been taken to secure treatment for the relevant staff member and provide support to the member’s family,” it said.

Political Bureau

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