Lack of consultation with labour – Business finds cracks in government initiatives to exploit

Communication Workers Union (CWU) welcomes the proactiveness of the State under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa. The President of the Republic announced on the 23rd of this month, the 21 days lockdown in order to curb the spread of the COVID 19 coronavirus. As a country, we will go into lockdown from Thursday, March 26 until the 16th of April 2020.

As a trade union movement, we view this move as a necessary precautionary measure to fight the spread of this virus. We further commend the government in the manner they handled this matter since the outbreak of this pandemic.

CWU further notes that the government has met all important stakeholders from business to religious organisations but labour. This created cracks in the governments efforts to fight the spread of the virus. The business, because of its natural behaviour of greed and prioritising profit above the rest, has used loopholes to exploit the broad announcement by the President at the macro level.
In the telecommunication and broadcasting sector, some companies are using the vague statement that says telecommunications services are essential.

In the retail space, MTN went to an extent of compelling workers to work during this period, and some areas (retails) still have not provided necessary materials such sanitisers, gloves and masks as precautionary measures. In the main, the duties of the stores is to upgrade contracts, sign new contracts, sell new cellphones and none other function can be categorised as essential, to a point that one can risk their lives just to upgrade contracts.

The other divisions that force workers to come to work is the warehouse where their function is to receive goods, dispatch and process. All of these functions are irrelevant if you take into account the functions of the retails and considering the fact that products are coming from high risk countries and were not delivered since January 2020.

This is despite that CWU has written a letter on the 10th of March 2020, offering support to any measures/that would be taken and to further mobilise and educate workers on a need to work with the employers on this matter.

We also have Telkom, that has done exceptionally well in the PR exercise in the last weeks. Telkom announced that it is donating R15 million to the state as part of their role in the fight to curb the virus. However, Telkom plays a contradictory role at practical level particularly when it comes to the staff and their customers. The flashing money company has failed in various divisions and regions to provide for necessary materials such gloves, masks and sanitisers to workers; in particular those who use common tools of work and meet customers face to face. The company has been promising the union that it will address the matter with urgency, but has since failed. As a cover up, they came with masks that have expired dates for use/ consumption. This demonstrates that the company is careless about the matter at hand yet it was portraying the company as amongst the caring companies in the eyes of the public, but in reality; it does not take the spread of coronavirus seriously.

In other small companies such as Soweto TV, managers seemed to be confused on what they should be doing in order to be operational. They even sent a confusing memo to their staff that working during this shutdown is voluntary, and for those who will not be coming to work; that the no work no pay rule will apply.

We believe that the only way to curb the spread of this virus that is threatening the economy and the health system is to work jointly and not prioritise profit over human lives.

Issued by the Office of the General Secretary
Contact:
CWU General Secretary
Aubrey Tshabalala
Cell: 061 481 1080

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