(Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)
BWI affiliates expressed their deep concerns over reports of thousands of job losses in South Africa’s construction industry, which has been on 3-week shut down due to COVID-19. The trade unions said that construction workers are likely to suffer loss of earnings as most of them are on contracts.
As the threat of the heath crisis grew in South Africa, there was no other viable option to contain the spread other than to lock down most of the country, including the construction industry which provides employment to more than one million people. Not included are companies offering maintenance and repairs for essential services such as power, water and sanitation infrastructure.
With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, police and soldiers have sometimes used force, including rubber bullets to enforce the lockdown restrictions. Over one hundred workers at a construction site were reportedly arrested for continuing to work during the lock down.
The Building and Construction Workers Union (BCAWU) is worried about the financial impact of the national lockdown and was looking to the government for more clarity on this and measures to cushion workers.
On the other hand, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has taken up the fight to some companies which have resorted to “no work, no pay” schemes during the 21-day lockdown. The union said that employers must not compel workers to take their annual leave during the lockdown period and also encouraged workers to report all violations to the authorities.