Covid-19: Popcru accuses correctional services of failing to reduce staff to 50%
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Pretoria - The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has accused the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) of failing to reduce the number of staff in workplaces to 50%, as a measure to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.
Union spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said compliance with the 50% staff reduction directive was in line with curbing the Covid-19 pandemic within correctional centres. He said the directive emanated from Circular 4 of 2021, issued by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), to all national departments, to reduce the staff complement to 50% or less.“Labour held a meeting with the department on April 25, wherein an update on the readiness of the department was requested, considering researchers had, by then, predicted a looming third wave,” Mamabolo said.
He said another meeting was held on May 23, regarding the development of a directive to finalise the staff reduction to 50% or less.
“Thus far, there has not been any satisfactory move to implement this directive by the department. Instead, the last DCS steering committee meeting, which took place on June 29 and 30, presented a draft Circular 7, in which the department is giving regions the prerogative to decide on staffing levels and working arrangements. Besides raising objections about this circular, it was signed off by the DCS national commissioner,” he said.
Mamabolo said the union rejected the circular with the contempt it deserved.
“We further condemn the double standards that the department is applying, by allowing officials working at regional and national offices to work on a rotational basis (50% or less), while officers at correctional centres are not allowed to work on a rotational basis, but work at 100% capacity. Regional directives cannot supersede the scope of what has been finalised and directed at a national level,” said Mamabolo.
He said the “defiance” by the department to the DPSA Circular “has led to a surge in the number of infections among officials and inmates and, as it stands, there are lesser officials on duty as a result of quarantining and being on Covid-19 leave”.
“The failure by the department to adhere to the DPSA Circular 4 and 5 will leave Popcru with no option but to seek legal intervention and report non-compliance to Covid-19 regulations to the Department of Labour,” Mamabolo said.
Correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo refuted the accusation that his department was failing to abide by the DPSA’s directive.
He said: “It is not true that we have not reduced the workforce, as directed by the Department of Public Service and Administration.
“We came up with a rotational model designed to protect staff members from exposure. It will be irresponsible for DCS to deploy its entire force, when faced with a pandemic of this nature. We maintained the rotational plan even when the country was at level 1,” said Nxumalo.
He said it was untrue that Covid-19 cases were increasing because the department had not reduced staff members.
“This is not the first time that this lie is constructed by this union and, in the process, it plays with emotions of the people, also garnering media prominence. This is totally irresponsible and uncalled for.”