The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa for failing to address shortcomings at the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) that has left them unable to pay Covid-19 support funding to millions.
“The government needs to intervene and capacitate the UIF which halfway through July has repeatedly failed to begin paying June payments,” Cosatu said.
The UIF struggled for weeks to open the application process for June benefits from the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), citing technical glitches.
Cosatu’s parliamentary co-ordinator, Matthew Parks, said on Monday the labour federation had received confirmation it would at last release the first payments on Monday, with R385 million being disbursed.
But Cosatu said government should be extending the benefit to people who were not able to return to work because their age or health placed them at high risk of contracting the coronavirus, or because their companies were not among those allowed to re-open.
“We are disappointed that the president said nothing about the need to extend the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Covid-19 relief fund for those workers over 60 years of age or with comorbidities, including workplaces that remain under operational restrictions beyond June.
“Equally, the Cabinet needs to deal with the abysmal failure of Sassa to pay the R350 grant promised by the president to long term unemployed workers.”
Cosatu said Sunday’s announcement that the country would return to a night time curfew and prohibition on alcohol sales was welcome and overdue.
But it warned that government was playing with fire by not imposing tougher measures on the taxi industry, on which South Africa’s working class largely relies for transport.
“The transport system remains the nation’s Achilles heel in the fight against the spread of coronavirus,” it said.
“The failure by municipalities to prepare taxi and bus ranks and government’s decision to allow local taxis to fill their taxis to full capacity is a big problem. Government has blinked first against the taxi industry and things can only get worse from here. Appeasement is not a strategy that will work in the taxi industry.”
Cosatu said health and safety plans for Metrorail commuter train lines must be immediately developed and enforced.