Snail Mail Us
10 May 2020
Trade union essential staff can now travel to work and meet at workplaces with individual workers or shop stewards. Union officials can meet with the union’s lawyers, and can attend conciliation, arbitration and court hearings. These must all be done in ways that will not spread the coronavirus.
Many workers continued to work after the first ‘lockdown’ of 26 March. Most of them did not get even the most basic PPE like sanitizer and masks as bosses scrambled to make maximum profits from the epidemic. Workers who were locked down faced ‘no work no pay’, forced annual leave or were simply sent home empty-handed. While bosses could do as they pleased, worker organisations were effectively banned from operating. Combined with the closure of the CCMA and the Labour Centres, this left workers defenseless against the bosses.
The government has issued new regulations under Level 4 that allow trade unions to operate. But the regulations apply only to registered trade unions. Unregistered trade unions, worker forums and the many advice offices that support workers will not be able to operate. The ban on these organisations will continue at a time when larger numbers of workers are returning to work and the CCMA and Labour Centres remain inaccessible to the majority of workers. Bosses will continue to do as they please, including long term restructuring of their workplaces to make even more profit. Worker organising is the only way to stop the bosses’ rotten system of exploitation.
The new regulations say registered unions can play a role in:
The regulations say trade unions must:
Trade union officials can attend the following meetings and hearings:
In all these meetings masks must be worn, there must be safe distancing and any other COVID-19 rules the venue may have must be followed.
Union officials can attend these activities only if the activities cannot be held online and only with the permission of the union general secretary or chairperson. This permission will be in the form of a permit. (Form 2 in Annexure A of the National Disaster Regulations.)
Enforcement officers must allow trade union officials with such essential trade union work permits to travel between their homes, offices, employer premises, bargaining councils, the CCMA and the courts.
Employers and their organisations
Contact CWAO for more advice
Note: CWAO is a small independent advice office and does not work for or with the Department of Labour or any government institutions.