Trade union federations, Cosatu and Fedusa, have both welcomed the Department of Labour’s extension the COVID- 19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS). The surprise decision comes after the department earlier stated that the scheme would not be extended after it lapsed last month.
The TERS benefit scheme is extended for the remainder of the current period of the National Disaster, which runs until the 15th of next month.
Millions of workers who have been laid off during the current national lockdown have come to rely on the TERS scheme for income. As part of the scheme, the UIF has paid out R34 billion to more than 7 million workers and half a million affected businesses. Another half a million workers who have applied are still awaiting payment.
Cosatu’s Parliamentary Liason Officer Mathew Parks says: “We strongly welcome the extension, for us it’s a huge victory for millions of workers and their families and the economy. We estimate it will inject an additional R15 billion for this extra month and a half of UIF payments. We have been having extensive engagements with the Minister and the UIF management at NEDLAC over the past few months, we felt there was a need to extend the support the UIF has been giving to the workers and the economy.”
Labour Federation, Fedusa, is also pleased.
“It is most certainly a move that is most welcome by Fedusa, bringing much needed relief to many of our members and specific sectors that are still trapped in lock down. At the same time being able to have an understanding for those people that have comorbidities, it’s something that we certainly welcome as Fedusa,” says Fedusa General Secretary Riefdah Ajam.
The UIF initially set aside R40 billion for the TERS benefit scheme. That means it is still left with R6 billion to disburse. But Parks says there’s no need to worry, more money is available.
Cosatu’s Parks adds: “Before the lockdown, the UIF had about R143 billion available, so there is money available, the costing has been done, they’d initially committed to provide R40 billion worth of relief but we had as Cosatu extensive engagement with the leadership of the UIF to provide more money and they have done so. We expect that for the June, July and August period we’ll definitely exceed that R40 billion and probably push into the next R50 billion figure, but there are sufficient funds available.”
The UIF says only workers in sectors that are still under lockdown – like tourism and the hotel industry – qualify to apply.