Jail employers withholding UIF Covid-19 money - Busa

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) and labour federation Cosatu have called for the imprisonment of executives whose companies have failed to disburse money from the Unemployment Insurance Fund's coronavirus relief fund.

In a rare show of unity, Busa, which represents established companies, and Cosatu on Thursday told SowetanLIVE that law enforcement agents should investigate companies that have not forwarded the UIF Covid-19 relief fund to their cash-strapped employees.

The organisations spoke to Sowetan after employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi this week revealed that his department had received complaints from the cash-strapped workers after their employers failed to pay out the money from the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme.

The fund, which has paid out R9bn to date, was setup to enable employers to pay employees who are temporarily out of work due to the pandemic and the country being on the lockdown.

Busa chief executive Cas Coovadia said, though the department hasn't complained to his organisation about the matter, Nxesi must act against the companies.

"If you break the law [by failing to disburse UIF relief fund money] the law must take its course and you must be charged. If the minister has such information he must ensure that the law enforcement agencies take care of it and people must be charged," said Coovadia.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said when trade unions suggested that the relief fund be created they "never imagined the level of unethical behavior, lack of principles and the level of greediness of SA employers". 

"Some companies have claimed [from the fund] knowing they do have resources to pay their workers.

"If you feel you're not going to touch your resources [to pay workers], you have no business going to the Covid-19 relief fund and stealing workers' money because UIF belongs to the workers.

Pamla, despite throwing caution to the wind, said a police task team should be created to probe complaints relating to the relief fund.

"Sometimes you suspect law enforcement agencies lack resources and the sophistication to deal with these kinds of commercial crimes.

"But there needs to be an investigation on who claimed and where did the money go and hold people accountable.

"It will be amiss to fail the workers by failing to hold those who have stolen from them accountable," said Pamla.

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