Unions urge employers not to use COVID-19 crisis to get rid of employees

Unions urge employers not to use COVID-19 crisis to get rid of employees

Labour unions have expressed concerns about the rate of applications for retrenchment by companies blaming the Covid-19 crisis for their troubles.

Cosatu provincial secretary Malvern de Bruyn said: “We are concerned about the job losses during this difficult time. We’ve appealed to employers to be more sensitive during this time because workers are not to blame for the coronavirus. The employer cannot use this virus as an excuse to get rid of them.

According to Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) had received cases that affected 28 000 employees between April 1 and May 27.

The workers had either been retrenched or dismissed during the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

In the Western Cape there had been 3 695 referrals since the beginning of March, while nationally there were 23 532 referrals affecting 43 867 workers.

CCMA director Cameron Morajane said they had seen an increased number of users at their offices.

“We are expecting that in the coming months referrals may increase as the regulations are relaxed and people return to work,” he said.

Morajane said the most common cases were unfair dismissals.

“Foreign nationals like other employees have approached the CCMA for assistance. For the period March 1 to May 28 a total of 1444 referrals nationally were made by foreign nationals.

“The figure in the Western Cape stands at 253 referrals from foreign nationals,” he said.

Federation of Unions SA general secretary Riefdah Ajam said: “We are aware of a number of cases at the CCMA and a number of factors that have contributed to this. What we are more concerned about is the ability of the CCMA to deal with all these cases and we call on the bargaining council to intervene. The companies are reckless with their Section 189s. They are using the Covid-19 crisis to advance retrenchments.”

Morajane said that the CCMA was well equipped to deal with the influx of cases.

DA spokesperson on Employment and Labour Michael Cardo said: “The CCMA has been one of the better-performing entities. And it’s going to come under pressure, the National Treasury has informed us of about 3 to 7 million people who will lose their jobs.

“One should capacitate the CCMA and we need creative ways to alleviate the strain.

“This is just a consequence of the economic mayhem, and it would be a pity if the CCMA was to buckle under the strain.”

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