GroundUp (Cape Town)

14 January 2014

South Africa: Labour Department Fails to Follow Up On Sick Workers' Claims

On 13 November 2013, GroundUp reported that Cassiem Mohammed has been waiting for over six years for compensation from the City of Cape Town for asbestosis.

The Department of Labour immediately contacted GroundUp after publication and promised to follow up with Cassiem. Disturbingly, there has been no progress on the matter.

GroundUp contacted Cassiem on 8 January 2014. He said that he has still not received any communication from the Labour Department. GroundUp has repeatedly tried to contact representatives from the Department of Labour and the Compensation Commission. We have received no response to our emails and telephone calls.

Cape Town's Mayoral Committee Member for Finance, Alderman Ian Neilson, says that since GroundUp's publication, the City has contacted the Compensation Commissioner's Office on several occasions about Cassiem's claim. However, the City has not received any response.

The City uses the Compensation Commission's adjudication process to determine the extent of disability or illness of a particular claim. The City then compensates claimants according to the findings of the Compensation Commission. The Compensation Commission is a subsidiary of the Department of Labour.

There are allegedly dozens of outstanding claims similar to Cassiem's. The City however refuses to verify this. It is not certain what the status of these claims is.

Cassiem contracted asbestosis when he was employed as a foreman at the Athlone Power Station. He is 70 years old. Asbestos was used as lagging in pipes to insulate heat. Workers were only provided with mutton cloth and goggles as protection against asbestos.

When he retired in 2007, he was told by the City of Cape Town's Compensation Office that he should follow up with them every month about his claim. He says that each time he has contacted the City, he has been told that they are still processing his claim.

Alderman Neilson, says that there is not much else that the City can do as it has to abide by legislation for claims of this nature. He says that the City "can only make either telephonic or written follow-ups".

Alderman Neilson says that the City will follow up on the matter on 31 January 2014 if they do not receive a response from Compensation Commission. He says that Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, is aware of the outstanding claims.

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