Level 4: Social partners to 'thrash out' income support plan for workers - Thulas Nxesi

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Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.
Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.
Felix Dlangamandla
  • Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi says social partners are engaging with Nedlac to "thrash out" a plan for income support to those affected by lockdown level 4 restrictions.
  • Nxesi said the UIF is able to afford providing support to laid off workers in sectors closed by government over the 14-day lockdown, particularly the alcohol industry.
  • The UIF-Covid 19-TERS benefit has to date paid out R60 billion to over five million workers.

Social partners will meet this week at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to "thrash out" an income-support plan for workers affected by level 4 lockdown restrictions, said Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.

The minister on Tuesday was speaking during a briefing by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on the latest lockdown restrictions, which include a fourth sales ban on alcohol. 

On whether payments from the Unemployment Fund (UIF)-Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) will resume, Nxesi said he did not want to pre-empt decisions made at Nedlac.

The UIF-Covid-19 TERS was implemented last year to support workers affected by the lockdown and provided income support of R60 billion to over five million workers, which helped families, communities and businesses, Nxesi said.

"In response to the level 4 lockdown, the UIF management has been loading discussions with actuaries to find surplus monies to address the new conditions," he said.

The UIF has a duty to safeguard funds of its contributing members - so that they can drawdown funds for ordinary UIF benefits in the case of retrenchments and unemployment, he explained.

Balancing act

"Paying out the Covid-19 TERS benefit has always been a balancing act, where we have to look at the affordability versus the need," he added.

"From the side of the UIF we believe we will be able to support laid off workers in sectors which have been closed by government...  in particular the alcohol industry, over the 14-day lockdown."

Nxesi said this does not include the whole value chain of the alcohol industry as production is still continuing.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday announced the sale of alcohol for both onsite and offsite consumption would be banned as lockdown level 4 kicked in. The ban is expected to ease the pressure on hospital services, according to recommendations from the Ministerial Advisory Council (MAC).

The South African Liquor Brand Owners' Association in the meantime has requested the MAC to release information pertaining to their recommendations to the NCCC relating to alcohol sales.

Responding to a question about the progress made in clamping down on TERS claims for "ghost employees" by some employers, Nxesi said that the department was working with the SA Revenue Service and the Department of Home Affairs on the problem.

"There is a lot of progress which has been made. We also continue to use the audit firms, we have appointed about seven of them who are following up the money," he said. The department was also working to "bring people to book" - especially employers who claimed payments but did not transfer funds to legitimate employees, said Nxesi.

About R170 million in TERS payments were irregularly paid last year, the Auditor-General had found some payments were from fraudulent claims, including from employers, Fin24 previously reported.

*This article was edited at 15:55 to reflect that R60 billion has been paid to five million workers, not 500 million as initially reported. 

 

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