Workers must have say in reopening business as lockdown eases, Cosatu says

Open office space. Picture: 123RF/SERGEY PETINOV
Cosatu wants workers and unions to have a say on whether a business can reopen when the hard Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown ends on April 30, following a risk assessment and a signed agreement by stakeholders.

The trade union federation is also calling for more labour inspectors as the country moves to ease some of the stringent lockdown regulations. Since the lockdown began on March 27, labour inspectors have played a crucial role in bringing employers who flouted the lockdown regulations to book.

“This must be negotiated with and agreed to by workers and unions in workplaces. Any sector or workplace must have a signed health and safety agreement,” he said.

The agreement must include safe transport, the provision of personal protective equipment and sanitisers, social distancing at the workplace, regular testing, and screening at the workplace, “as well as other measures that can reduce the number of people on duty per shift through staff rotations, where possible”.

Cosatu made the remarks after President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation on Thursday night that beyond April 30 there would be a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity.

The lockdown regulations have had a huge impact on the economy as key sectors temporarily shut their doors as the country battled to flatten the curve of Covid-19, which has infected 3,953 and killed 75 in SA.

Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday a R500bn economic and social support package aimed at keeping the embattled economy going during the coronavirus pandemic.

When SA moves from level 5 to level 4 on May 1, some businesses will be allowed to resume operations but under specific conditions, the president said.

The president said further information on these conditions will be spelt out next week following a final round of consultations with stakeholders.

Ramaphosa said businesses will be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible, and that all staff who can work remotely must be allowed to do so.

Pamla said the federation welcomed the easing of the regulations and called on employment and`labour minister Thulas Nxesi to ensure the number of labour inspectors is increased to “deal with the new conditions that will have to be adopted by various workplaces”.

Pamla said employers needed to put resources in place to allow their employees to work from home.


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