No jobs, no pay, no Ters: Domestic workers describe the pain of Covid-19 pandemic
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Johannesburg - As South Africa observes the first anniversary since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic workers are still bearing woeful scars of unemployment.
On Sunday, domestic workers in the country recounted how most of South Africa’s homeowners used the Covid19 pandemic as an excuse to fire them leaving scores jobless and without a cent to survive their ordeal.
Most were not even registered with the Department of Labour and had no access to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
This was the view of scores of domestic workers affiliated to the Domestic Workers Rising Movement during their virtual meeting ahead of International Women's Day on Monday.
Of the 2.2 million jobs that were lost in the second quarter of 2020, 250 000 were domestic work. The majority of domestic workers are black women and low-wage workers in precarious jobs.
They are the most vulnerable workers, earning the lowest minimum wage in South Africa.
On Sunday, workers recounted their ordeal and suffering and urged Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi to set up a team of labour inspectors who would visit private homes and estates in South Africa to ensure that workers were fully registered by their employers.
Recounting their pain, Pinky Mashiane said the outbreak of Covid-19 and the introduction of the lockdown had severely affected the livelihoods of domestic workers.
“Domestic workers were home without pay. There was no communication between the domestic workers and their employers. When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the R500 billion relief fund, domestic workers could not access Ters (Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme) funds. The biggest problem was that most of the domestic workers were not registered with the Department of Labour.
“We are asking the minister to allow their inspectors to visit the private homes of our employers including those living in exclusive estates and to ensure that they are complying with the labour laws. It will make a big difference to the lives of domestic workers,” Mashiane said.
Adding to their pain, Mashiane said some domestic workers were not allowed to visit their families as their bosses told them that they do not want to contract Covid-19.
Mashiane said the situation worsened for these aggrieved workers who had no avenue to solve their problems as Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) offices were closed and they could not apply for Ters.
“When we went to the Department of Labour we were told to apply for Ters only. We did not have smartphones and other digital platforms to do so. The CCMA offices were closed during the outbreak of the pandemic.
“When we lodged labour disputes in May, the officials asked us why we lodged our complaints late. We did not know anything about applications for condonation. The officials just provided us with forms to apply for condonation. We did not know how to fill (in) those forms and as a result most of our condonation applications were not granted,” Mashiane said.
She said some of their labour disputes were still pending at the CCMA.
“Coronavirus was a scapegoat by our employers to dismiss their domestic workers and send them home without paying them a cent,” Mashiane said.
Their plight prompted Theo Moerane of Mtheo Events Management to offer her services to assist workers on how to claim for the Compensation Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).
Moerane, like Mashiane, also urged Nxesi to order his inspectors to visit various homes to ensure that domestic workers were registered and have access to labour benefits.
The Domestic Workers Rising Movement has now urged its members to secure smartphones as a hundred of them were on Sunday given tutorials on how to apply for Ters.