COSATU in negotiations to extend UIF TERS

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is currently in discussion with the South African government with regards to extending the UIF Temporary employer/employee relief scheme. 

The UIF Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) was set up by the South African government to provide financial relief to workers and employers financially affected by the effects of the national lockdown.

COSATU says that it would cost approximately 9 to 12 billion rand to extend the Covid-19 TERS for another 3 months. This comes after the UIF announced that it would be discontinuing TERS as it had reached maximum payouts. 

Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator of COSATU says the union had not been aware of the discontinuation of TERS and were under the impression that it would be extended. 

"For us it is quite shocking that the president could make a public commitment and then government officials run away from it,"

-Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator of COSATU 

President Cyril Ramaphosa had decided in September that the time frame of the TERS would match that of the State of Disaster declared over the health crisis however COSATU said, in a submission to Parliament's standing committee on finance, that the Cabinet and UIF had gone back on their word. 

"Despite this public commitment by the president and that the extension of the Ters is legally binding under the existing disaster management regulations, the UIF has refused to do so,"

-COSATU said in a submission responding to last week’s Medium-term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) tabled in Parliament

COSATU had asked the government to continue with TERS to provide support to workers who are unable to work because of the restrictions and to provide long term assistance to businesses affected. 

Parks, explains that cancelling TERS and banning workers over 60 or those with commorbidities will result in those workers defying the restrictions and going back to work. This will put their lives at risk and will possibly contribute to a second wave of infections which the country cannot afford. 

He argues that the government should be open to negotiations concerning TERS because it does not contribute towards the UIF. Businesses and workers should be supported because those are the people who contribute towards the UIF and keep the economy afloat.

Parks says the the government does have funds available but they are choosing not to make use of it and being overtly conservative.

Cosatu said the government's stance raised a question as to whether the UIF should continue to fall under the department of labour or be placed under the direct control of business and labour.

COSATU says the government should consider longer term options which are financially sustainable, to save jobs and businesses in 2021. 

Parks requested that banks also contribute towards businesses that have been struggling to operate during this time. 

Parks emphasizes that the government must uphold and honour its agreements so that the country does not have to be weary of its commitments in future. 

"We are meeting today and for our position, it is a position of no compromise, they must to it[extend]"

-Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator of COSATU

COSATU remains in negotiation with the government and is hopeful to reach an agreement with them. 

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