08 Jun

Covid-19 caused an international health crisis with lockdown measures interrupting the world of work, devastating economies and ruining the livelihood of many organisations and workers. South Africa and its trade unions are no exception.

While we still face the pandemic and live and survive under a risk-adjusted strategy incorporating lockdown levels, our union members remain at the centre of our focus.

UASA, by design, chose over many years to operate as a financially responsible union, based on good corporate governance principles with sustainability top of mind, to best serve our members’ interests. This was done on the back of a rich 125-year history and looking forward to being in the forefront of representing workers for decades to come.

In line with this approach, this allowed us to immediately respond by launching our Covid-19 crisis voucher benefit during the early days of lockdown to support those members in need and at their most vulnerable, with a R500 grocery voucher.

Our industry-leading funeral benefit fund continued to pay members’ claims without delay. The benefit was in fact further enhanced to contribute towards the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) for Covid-19 funerals. The fund withstands the impact of the pandemic and lockdown and remains financially stable with adequate capital to support our loyal members well into the future and contribute to their peace of mind for themselves and their families.

UASA’s maternity benefit also continued paying out claims, without any delays.

UASA’s service to its members continued unabated during the Covid-19 pandemic and whilst other organisations, employers and entire sectors were forced to close their doors for months, we did not. Instead we continued to successfully service our members on the ground remotely and in court too, walking away as the victor in prominent Labour Court cases against Denel, Implats and Mondi.

  • · The Labour Court found in a virtual session that state-owned weapons manufacturer Denel had breached the most fundamental obligation of an employer in an employment relationship, namely, to pay remuneration for work done. He ordered Denel to pay employees, including UASA members by no later than 7 August 2020. We are now instituting contempt of court proceedings against Denel it did not honour the Labour Court order.
  • · Earlier this year UASA obtained a Labour Court victory against Impala Platinum’s (Implats) unlawful reduction of workers’ leave days after the workers were forced to stay at home during the violent five months-long AMCU strike at Marikana in 2014. The court declared any leave days forced onto the workers during the strike unlawful and ordered that the lost leave days, in some cases up to 103 days, be reinstated with immediate effect.
  • · UASA won an arbitration victory for its members when packaging and paper company Mondi was ordered not to change conditions of service unilaterally. Using the Covid-19 crisis as motivation, Mondi embarked on a process to limit the number of employees per shift and to increase the number of working hours per shift from 8 to 12 hours without offering overtime for the additional hours worked. UASA members were prepared to work longer shifts but insisted on overtime remuneration for the additional hours, in terms of the existing collective agreement. The matter was referred to arbitration. The arbitration award was in UASA members’ favour, with the ruling stating that shifts may not be unilaterally changed by the employer. In the event that the employer requires our members to work additional hours per shift, overtime must be paid.

The union also managed to avoid a strike in the sugar industry and continues representing its members at airlines SA Express and Kulula and at various other employers as sectors are returning to work.

UASA’s service and benefit offering is unique in that our pro-active, responsible approach to crisis management and our focus on sustainability into the future in the interest of our members has placed us at the industry forefront to deliver a total package to the worker of South Africa. Our members have peace of mind because they know they are supported by a union that can deliver always, even during a new, unknown international health crisis the like of which the world has not seen in the last 100 years.

As a trade union, whilst we are affected by circumstances beyond our control, such as this pandemic, we are grateful that we not only survive, but thrive, due to the diligent efforts of our team and dynamic leadership, to best serve our members, well into the future.

For further enquiries or to set up a personal interview, contact Stanford Mazhindu at 074 978 3415.

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