The government’s Covid-19 temporary employer/employee relief scheme (TERS) will resume later this month for workers negatively affected by the level four restrictions put in place a week ago.
Parties at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) have agreed to resuscitate TERS in principle, according to Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.
He told Independent Media that TERS would be revived to focus on restricted sectors such as vulnerable workers in the liquor, tourism, hospitality, restaurant and travel industries.
“This principled agreement is going to the cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) for final approval in the next few days,” Pamla said.
He added that applications should start on July 19 and payments on July 26.
”We’ve asked them to see if they can’t bring this forward. So far this covers two weeks’ lockdown. But if the lockdown is extended, then they would be open to engaging on that.
’’We’ve said as long as we have some workers and sectors under restrictions then we need to provide relief to them,” said Pamla.
He said discussions were also continuing as there were some areas of difference that labour had raised, such as extending cover back to March 15 when last relief was paid, and ensuring no one was compensated below the national minimum wage rate.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has yet to agree to the union’s demands, but has agreed to cost them and table them at the Cabinet meeting this week.
Cosatu wants struggling workers to receive their relief as soon as possible and not to delay matters.
“At a broad level there’s agreement, which is critical. A ministerial directive is being drafted and a payment is system being set up,” Pamla added.
Department of Employment and Labour spokesperson Musa Zondi said no decision had been taken by the government on extending TERS, but added that it was not opposed to the idea of helping workers.
He said such a move would only exist after approval by the national joint operational and intelligence structure, and the Cabinet.
The DA has welcomed the move to extend TERS and demanded that Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi shed light on the nuts and bolts of the extension.
”The cabinet, and Nxesi in particular, must move with great speed to finalise and communicate the details,” said DA MP Michael Cardo.
He said many workers in the hotel industry, for example, struggled to get their dues because the UIF claimed that their employers were registered with incorrect standard industrial classifications.
”The current Level 4 lockdown regulations affect, among others, thousands of workers in the alcohol, restaurant and hospitality industries, as well as the tourism, weddings and conferencing sectors,” said Cardo.
He said many desperate workers had been deprived of their usual income and deserved to know exactly what relief they could expect, and whether it would last for the duration of the level 4 regulations should the lockdown be prolonged beyond July 11.
“For as long as the government prevents people from participating in the economy, it has a duty to mitigate the devastating economic impact with financial assistance,” Cardo said.