South Africa: Nehawu Free State Disappointed By Utterances Made By Minister Employment and Labour

press release

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union [NEHAWU] in Free State notes with disappointment the utterances made by the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, in a media statement dated September 23, 2020.

The statement creates an impression that all is well in the province, while our members continue to be exposed to workplaces that are a hazard to their health because of the inability of the department to enforce compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety [OHS] Act. It must, however, be mentioned that labour inspectors were deployed to areas where the union has lodged complaints after our members in hospitals made clear their intentions to withdraw their labour. The department cannot only act when workers are fighting to protect themselves. For a very long time our members were complaining about lack of inadequate Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs], failure to disinfect areas where positive cases were identified, failure to track possible contacts, and inconsistencies in application of regulations.

We have always complained about the lack of Health and Safety committees in workplaces. These committees are formed to ensure that workers work in hazard-free environments. It is only in the Free State Department of Health where there is some movement as far as establishment of these committees after NEHAWU put pressure on the management. As for other government departments the committees remain non-existent and the Department of Employment and Labour is doing nothing about this. It is for this reason that we are disappointed by the statement by the Minister that all is well while our members and workers continue to work under safe working conditions.

We expect the department to be proactive and ensure compliance with employment legislation by both employers (management) and workers, and not only react to issues when raised by NEHAWU. The outbreak of COVID-19 has exposed the department's failure to guarantee the safety of workers and compliance in the workplace by employers. In this regard, we demand that the department plays its legislative role, and ensure that all workplaces are safe, and do not pose any health or safety hazard to workers.

The department must take it upon itself to ensure that there is continued compliance to relevant prescripts, and be transparent, not only during the pandemic. We remain available to partner with the department in ensuring that our workplaces comply with safety requirements

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