The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce radical interventions to contain the spread of Covid-19. The Union proposes various interventions such as a total shutdown of big employers for a period, with the employees continuing to receive income and benefits, as well as a general waiver on the submission of medical certificates for absence due to sickness, during this period. AMCU says it is important to lighten the blow of this pandemic on workers, as they are the driving force behind the South African economy.
Honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday convened with political leaders and captains of industry to strategise on the containment of the coronavirus pandemic. The State President is expected to brief the nation this evening on the outcomes of this session.
Noting the rapid infection rate that is characterising the pandemic, AMCU is calling on President Ramaphosa to announce radical interventions to contain its spread.
“As AMCU, we have already written to the CEOs of mining houses and employers in other sectors to implement measures to contain this pandemic”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “While we have welcomed the earlier announcements of the Honourable State President on measures to contain the virus, we feel that much more needs to be done as a matter of urgency if we want to stop the rapid spread of this disease,” Mathunjwa added.
Most economists and political analysts agree that Covid-19 is not only a serious health crisis, but also a social and an economic crisis in the making. Many workers stand to lose their incomes and our economy, which was already grasping for air, will be given another massive blow.
“We call on the Honourable State President to immediately declare that all operations that employ large numbers of workers in a single space, must be locked down for a period of at least three weeks,” Mathunjwa said. “However, no worker should forfeit any of the wages due to them until we emerge from this crisis,” he said. “Only workers in essential service must be allowed to continue working, on condition that the strictest health and safety protocols are observed and they are issued with the necessary preventative equipment and PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]”, Mathunjwa said.
“They must also be paid a danger or risk allowance, which could be called a Covid-19 allowance, as they are risking their lives on a daily basis”, he added.
“In view of the continuous advice that those who feel sick must rather stay home than visit the doctor, we also request for the Honourable State President to declare that no worker may be penalised from being off sick without submitting a medical certificate during this period,” Mathunjwa added.
In its earlier letter to employers, AMCU proposed measures like the installation of thermal scanners and conversion of disused buildings into quarantine and treatment centres.
Standard Bank of South Africa earlier announced a payment holiday of three (3) months for small business owners, and several other organisations have made similar proposals. The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) also cut interest rates with 100 basis points last week.
“While we welcome the measures already implemented, it is time that we look at the effect of this pandemic on the workers,” said Mathunjwa. “It is important to note that workers and their spending power is the driving force behind our economy, and if we don’t look after them first, we will all suffer,” he added. “We implore on Honourable President Ramaphosa to announce radical measures”, Mathunjwa concluded.
AMCU has written several memorandums to its own internal structures and offices, containing measures on how to contain Covid-19. These include access control to and hygiene measures for offices at national, regional and branch levels, as well as guidelines on dealing with absences and meetings.