Bus driver paid R21 and told to claim the rest from UIF

29 April 2020 - 07:56
By Isaac Mahlangu and Kgothatso Madisa

Just R21,16. This is how much a driver of a major bus company took home last week after being put on unpaid leave since the lockdown began last month.

His payslip - which Sowetan has seen - shows that the man earns a weekly salary of R2,416.

His company deducted 37 hours-worth of income which he was told to claim from the Unemployed Insurance Fund (UIF) as per government's Covid-19 relief benefits.

The man, who would not be named, is one of at least 22,000 bus company employees nationwide who are in limbo, as their bargaining council waits for the UIF to settle their claim after their industry was forced to reduce operations due to the national lockdown.

Another quarter of a million workers in SA will also not be getting their salaries this month.

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi announced in Pretoria yesterday that employers of the 220,000 workers who are entitled to UIF benefits had not applied and made claims to the fund for the benefits.

"There remain challenges where employers are also not assisting their employees to claim. We have calculated that some 220,000 workers entitled to claim have not yet done so and we are endeavouring now to contact those individuals," Nxesi said.

"The reason for these numbers is because some employers have not even dared to help the employees and we continue to appeal to them to help us."

The UIF benefits are from the fund's Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (COVID-19 TERS) which is aimed at assisting companies which are unable to pay the full salaries of the workers they sent home due to the lockdown.

Gary Wilson, the general secretary of the SA Road Passenger Bargaining Council, told Sowetan yesterday that bus employees were currently under siege as they waited for the UIF to settle their claim which was submitted over a week ago.

"How long it takes the UIF to pay the council the money is out of our hands now as we can but only wait for the money to be paid to the council in order to distribute it to the companies to pay their workers," Wilson said.

"However, the consequences in waiting for the money is that workers and their families are going hungry."

He said they expected a turnaround of between 24 and 48 hours from the UIF, however a week later they were still uncertain when the funds would be paid.

Wilson said it was heartbreaking to see some employees taking home as little as R21.

"Even companies who can pay workers in the meantime are flatly refusing to do so and say they must wait until the UIF pay and they get the money from the council."

He said employees who are normally being paid weekly have not been paid since the lockdown started, including those that were supposed to be paid on the 25th and a few whose pay was due yesterday.

"The council want to assure workers that the moment the money is received from the UIF we will pay it into the employers' accounts to pay them. We'll do everything in our power to save jobs and assist those companies in real distress."

Economic cluster ministers revealed during a briefing yesterday that of the 1,8-million companies registered with the UIF, only 103,000 have applied for the relief scheme benefit.

UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.