Sunday, 15 March 2020, marked the first National State of Disaster declaration in years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic identified and diagnosed in South Africa.
With self-protection and self-hygiene stressed as a precautionary measure, it goes without saying that MISA needs to be proactive by giving guidance to our members and to limit their exposure.
Your Employers’ Responsibility
The Employer’s responsibility is to maintain a safe and healthy workplace environment, a duty imposed by legislation (Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 0f 1993, clause 5(1)). The current outbreak of the COVID-19 is no different, in fact it is now more than ever close to home and the challenge is on.
Preventing the spread of the virus and or unnecessary exposure is at the forefront and as a result there should be risk assessments and the provision of a safe designated area for members to wash and sanitise their hands and regular sanitation of work areas.
Members must ensure that they sharpen up on their personal hygiene and avoid physical contact. More importantly an employee must disclose to an employer if they were exposed in any manner to the virus.
Employees must be vigilant in staying updated with the latest announcements and updates regarding COVID-19, especially announcements by the World Health Organisation (WHO) whose primary role is to direct international health within the United Nations’ system and to lead partners in global health responses. Should an employee suspect being exposed or return from traveling after visiting one of the affected countries, self-quarantine should be the next step.
The Motor Industry Bargaining Council (MIBCO) and MIBCO’s Dispute Resolution Centre (DRC)
The DRC is following the CCMA Directive. In short all unfair dismissal and unfair labour practice disputes scheduled between 19 March 2020 to 14 April 2020 has been postponed. The DRC will revisit the COVID-19 issue at the beginning of April 2020 to ascertain if the postponement may be lifted. The scenario will however be monitored and should it become evident that further postponement is required, this will be communicated to members.
The quarantine or self-isolation period should be at least 7 days as confirmed on Monday, 16 March 2020 during an urgent NEDLAC Executive meeting, that the incubation period for the virus is 6 to 7 days.
An employer cannot restrict or prevent members from personal traveling. Members must however remain vigilant and cognisant of the responsibilities that goes with every decision taken. Should members decide to continue with their personal traveling plans, know that upon returning, it might be expected to self-quarantine at their own cost, i.e. annual leave. Remember, your choice – your responsibility!
Important to note, when in self-quarantine, the time off will be processed as paid annual leave. In the instance that a member’s leave has been exhausted, the self-quarantine period will be processed as unpaid leave. Alternative measures may also be put in place by employers, but this will be at the discretion of the employer. Once diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus during the self-quarantine period, annual leave will be changed to sick-leave from the date diagnosed.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ Coronavirus Emergency 24-hour hotline number is 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp number 060 012 3456 and their website www.nicd.ac.za. Please note that should members be tested at independent laboratories, the results are preliminary and all positive results must be verified by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
The right to not be unfairly discriminated against and Xenophobia
Xenophobia is defined as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” The Employment Equity Act (EEA), especially section 6, prohibits unfair discrimination against employees on arbitrary grounds.
Due to the presumption that the COVID-19 outbreak originated at Wuhan China, people of Asian descent, particularly people of Chinese national origin, might be subjected to unfair discrimination. It is however evident that the discrimination does not stop there as a result of the inherent fear of strange or foreign things.
COVID-19 is a reality and so is your right to dignity and equity. Be sensitive and vigilant and refrain from engaging in gossip and speculations when a co-worker enters a period of self- or forced quarantine. COVID-19 does not affect people based on position, race, religion etc., we are all exposed and we all need to take care.
MISA and Labour Related measurements
The MISA Legal Department is centralised and situated in Northcliff Johannesburg, Gauteng –
MISA will remain operational and will still be just a phone call away even though we are in a national state of disaster. MISA will deal with matters that requires traveling but in a limited and/or only extreme cases. In general, all domestic flights and traveling will be kept to a minimum. Members will still be assisted via phone; skype and where possible in person. These measures are to limit and reduce the risk to MISA employees and MISA members.
The impact of COVID-19 is not only on our health, but is having a ripple effect on the economy. Members might experience a downturn of customer visits, car bookings for services, etc. at their place of work.
The effect of the inevitable downturn or slowness of the economy might have a direct impact on your employment. Employers need to manage their business and it might not be operationally feasible to continue with business as is. One of the measures that employers might put in place is short time as a precautionary measure to prevent retrenchments as a result of non-productivity.
MISA must be consulted as employers cannot unilaterally change an employees’ working conditions. Currently the MIBCO Main Collective Agreement is not signed by MISA or promulgated, and therefor “Short-Time” cannot currently be governed by MIBCO and does not form part of an enforceable agreement.
MISA must at all times be kept informed and consulted. Please do not hesitate to phone us should you experience any difficulty or uncertainty at work in this regard.
One avenue to explore as recourse for time lost is to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) for the period you were placed on short time, subject to having sufficient credits available. The following forms must be completed by the Employer: UI2.1, UI2.7, UI6A and the UI19. For more information follow this link: https://www.psiberworks.com/a-brief-update-on-recent-changes-to-the-uif/
The forms are also available on the Sage-payroll, UI-Online and the Department of Labour.
Please do not leave anything to chance, take control and be responsible! MISA remains only a phone call away!