South African workers march to defend healthcare benefits

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National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) members marched to the offices of Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) in Bloemfontein on Monday, to demand that the regulator stops bosses from defrauding security workers out of their medical insurance benefits.

There are some employers who, under the false pretence of providing workers with medical insurance benefits covered by Affinity Health, deduct money from them – but do not pay it over to the service provider.
Affinity Health is the only service provider of medical insurance in the security sector and this was achieved through the Main Collective Agreement (MCA) which was signed at the National Bargaining Council for the Private Security Sector (NBCPSS).
For example, Mabotwane Security denies their security officers the healthcare benefits that they fought so hard for in terms of the MCA. Mabotwane Security should have been paying over R250 to Affinity Health, the designated service provider, to cover the primary healthcare needs of their over 900 security officers.
But Mabotwane Security has not been doing so, and it now owes workers over R3.6 million worth of healthcare cover, in the last 16 months.
This means that some security guards are paying for cover, but they are not receiving any benefits for it.
This leaves them vulnerable and exposes them because they are unable to get the medical insurance benefit when they need it.
‘To deduct money and not pay it over to the service provider is fraud!’ says NUMSA
Mabotwane Security has not registered their security officers with the Private Security Sector Provident Fund even though they are deducting money for the ‘provident fund’.
This will adversely affect security officers when they retire, or their contracts are terminated – which is a common occurrence in this sector.
Some of the companies listed below have government contracts in different municipalities around the country, but officials do nothing to ensure compliance with the (signed) collective agreement.
Since February this year NUMSA, working with other unions like Abanqobi Workers Union (AWU), Kungwini Amalgamated Workers Union (KAWU), and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) launched the ‘Pay Back the Money’ campaign.
This was followed up with pickets in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Kimberly. Some of the previously non-compliant companies have since begun complying including: Zeks Security, Easy Security, Rishebile Security, Tykes Security, A Force Security, Cedas Senforce, Nisi Security, Siqobile Security, and Fidelity Security.
‘We will not stop with the naming and shaming campaign. It is important for unions to fight for these benefits and to ensure that workers are protected,’ said NUMSA.
‘NUMSA has given PSIRA (the regulatory authority) seven days to respond to our demands. We are calling on them to take decisive action against employers who defraud workers.
‘Criminal charges must be laid and employers who do not comply must be blacklisted and prevented from operating.’
Meanwhile, in parts of Gauteng province, South Africa, bus drivers from the Northwest Transport Investment company are on strike because they haven’t been paid for four months.
Last Wednesday, the City of Tshwane suspended all bus operations following a strike by workers affiliated with the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU).
The drivers walked out last Tuesday afternoon.
They didn’t show up for work on Wednesday morning either, despite a 48-hour ultimatum that was issued by the city to the workers.
Workers and the entire country have a lot riding on the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) to be tabled by Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana, at Parliament today, 1st November, said the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on Monday.
Its statement said: ‘Our nation is facing a myriad of very difficult challenges, ranging from tepid economic growth, a 42.1% unemployment rate, a youth unemployment rate of 60%, endemic crime and corruption, a painful period of loadshedding, cable theft crippling our passenger and freight railway network, dysfunctional municipalities, and ingrained poverty and inequality.
‘All of these feed into a sense of despair.
‘The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has been dismayed by the National Treasury’s decades long addiction to a variety of economic and fiscal policies that have not succeeded by any yard stick.
‘We should not be surprised when these policies continue to fail to yield results.
‘In 2020, the Treasury imposed an ill-conceived wage freeze on public servants. Subsequently, below inflation increases have been effected for public servants.
‘Yet the fiscus and the economy remain in a crisis precisely because the real obstacles to growing the economy have not been addressed, e.g. ensuring affordable electricity, reliable rail and efficient ports.
‘We have been astounded by reckless attempts to impose misguided austerity budget cuts across government in the run-up to the MTBPS, including freezing vacancies and infrastructure investment programmes.
‘Whilst we appreciate the fiscal constraints facing the state and the need to cut fat and reprioritise expenditure, the solutions offered by the Treasury of bluntly slashing expenditure and further decapacitating the state in an economy in desperate need of stimulus and well-oiled and capacitated public services, will only choke the economy and further weaken an already enfeebled government and undermine its ability to provide quality public and municipal services.
‘What is needed is to grow the economy. That is the only sober and sustainable path to pay down our worrying debt trajectory.
‘The Treasury’s narrow fixation on cutting the wage bill is a lazy option that will not resolve the multiplicity of crises the country is facing. Underpaying a nurse will not get the trains to run on time.
‘What it will do is to fuel the brain drain of skilled public servants to better paying and less stressful jobs overseas.
‘We should not fall for the reckless narrative that says the public service is bloated.  In 1994 we had 1 million public servants for 34 million South Africans.
‘Today we have 1.2 million public servants, yet the population has nearly doubled to 62 million.
‘The crisis we are facing is not an expenditure crisis.  The wage bill has been stable at 35% of the budget for more than a decade. The crisis is a collapse in company tax.
‘This is because of the rapid deterioration in the capacity of Transnet to transport mining, manufacturing and agricultural products to their markets on time.
‘The mining industry is a major contributor to the state through company taxes and an earner of investment and foreign exchange for the economy.
‘If government does not turn things around at Transnet fast, we will face a jobs bloodbath in the mining industry and a crisis of revenue that no amount of pickpocketing public servants will fix.
‘If we are to grow the economy and reduce unemployment, and thus increase the revenue the state needs to reduce debt, then government needs to deal with the real obstacles suffocating the economy, workers and businesses, namely:

  • Provide additional support to Eskom to end loadshedding and ensure reliable and affordable electricity;‘
  • Urgently intervene at Transnet and Metro Rail to secure and rebuild our freight and passenger railway network and modernise our ports. Transnet has to be the state’s number one priority;‘
  • Stabilise and overhaul dysfunctional municipalities and restore basic services;‘
  • Allocate additional resources to the South African Revenue Service to tackle tax and customs evasion, conduct lifestyle audits of the wealthy, and generate badly needed state revenue;‘
  • Fill critical frontline vacancies in the public service, especially the Police, National Prosecuting Authority and Courts, enabling them to crack down on crime and corruption;‘
  • Give relief to commuters and the economy by reducing the taxes consuming 28% of the fuel price and place the chaotic Road Accident Fund under administration to lessen its need for fuel levy hikes;
  • Expand the Presidential Employment Programme to accommodate one million active participants in the MTBPS and two million by February’s Budget to help young people earn a salary, gain experience and enter the labour market;‘
  • Enhance the invaluable Social Relief of Distress Grant to recover value lost to inflationary erosion by raising it to the Food Poverty Line and link its recipients to skills and job opportunities;
  • Expedite and not freeze badly needed infrastructure investments;
  • Ensure the two pot pension reforms are implemented in 2024 and increase the immediate access of up to R50 000 for financially struggling workers, providing relief for millions and injecting badly needed stimulus into the economy.

‘If government can show the necessary fortitude and vision and implement these common-sense interventions, the economy can meet the 4% growth target.
‘This will set the nation on the path to a prosperous job creating economy, a capacitated developmental state and ensure the fiscus is set back on a secure path.
‘Cutting medication to a patient in the ICU at hospital will achieve little besides killing the patient.
‘Workers can no longer afford to live on hope and prayers, whilst the Treasury experiments with failed economic theories that have been rejected across the world.
‘COSATU will continue engaging the leadership of government to seek a more pragmatic and sustainable path to rebuilding the state, growing the economy and creating jobs.’