500 signatures reached
To: HE President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Labour and Employment, Thulas Nxesi
Demand Corona Relief Fund be set up for precarious workers during the Lockdown
*** Update: 23 March 2020
The Department of Labour and Employment has set up a National Disaster Benefit under the UIF which covers only workers who contribute to the fund for a R3500 flat rate payout for the duration of the disaster or 3 months, whichever is shorter. However, we believe that the UIF is a social security safety net and a government policy instrument which the government can choose how and when to deploy. We urge the government to consider not only to cover contributors during these extraordinary times but to include the most vulnerable too who have not not been contributing to the fund, not by choice. These include unregistered domestic workers and workers in the no work no pay contexts.
If this is not possible we call on the President to set an emergency fund set out specifically for precarious workers.
Update: 09 April 2020
After weeks of campaigning for the UIF fund to be extended to precarious, we have received a firm response from the President and the Minister of Labour and employment saying that the UIF will not be extended to the informal sector. Adding salt to the wound the informal sector is not explicitly included in funds that have been made available such as the SME debt relief fund and the Solidarity Fund. We are now calling for a fund that is dedicated to relieving the informal sector. We are now calling for a Corona Relief fund for the informal sector.***
Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Labour and Employment, Thulas Nxesi we demand that compensation be made accessible to all precarious workers, including domestic workers and informal workers in prevention and response to COVID- 19.
We call on you to extend, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to all precarious workers, including domestic workers and informal workers, in order for them to afford self-isolation where necessary.
We acknowledge the Government Notice (20 March 2020) by the Department of Employment and Labour in terms of Section 6A of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) as amended to include compensation for COVID-19. This amendment, however, does not include domestic workers and informal workers who currently are still not covered under COIDA. We demand the expansion of COIDA to include all workers with immediate effect.
Why is this important?
Precarious workers make use of mass transport systems (taxis and buses) to get to and from work, areas the WHO and National Department of Health have deemed as high risk for infection. Furthermore, domestic workers and health care workers work in intimate spaces with people who are at high risk of COVID-19 infection, such as the elderly and people who have travelled to and from high-risk countries. However, due to the legacy of inequality, we continue to live in, these are the very same workers who will not be paid – and cannot afford – to self-quarantine. Without income, they also cannot afford healthy food or medication, making them even more vulnerable.
We commend the Government for communicating around COVID-19, however, gaps remain in addressing the anxiety, fear and stigma related to infection. On top of the fear of dying, vulnerable workers reside in communities where the potential is high for stigmatisation and discrimination in the event of self-quarantine or being identified as having the virus.
We believe that a successful response to COVID-19 requires unity among all who live in South Africa, and we aim to be part of a unified solution. That unified response, however, requires Government to take bold and deliberate steps to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society are cared for and have their dignity and livelihoods secured. COVID-19 will exacerbate inequality among the working class of this country as they do not have the choice to ‘work from home’ and they are subject to ‘no work no pay’ labour conditions.
This is compounded by the fact that domestic workers and informal workers particularly still do not have access to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) that other COVID-19 affected formal workers have. This means that domestic workers and informal workers cannot claim compensation in the event that they contract COVID-19 while at work. Given that we are officially under a national state of disaster, Mr President, we call for expedited access to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) for domestic workers and informal workers.