Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi has extended a ground-breaking agreement, reached by textile industry stakeholders for payment of unemployment insurance benefits to workers affected by Covid-19, to other parties.

The agreement will allow about 80,000 workers in the industry to continue receiving their salaries during the 21-day lockdown, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, to limit the coronavirus spread in SA, which has infected more than 1,700 and resulted in at least 13 deaths.

In a notice published in the Government Gazette on Monday, Nxesi said the collective agreement shall be binding on the parties and the other employers and employees in the industry, with effect from Monday until February 28 2022.

The agreement calls for the payment of workers to be made up of Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) monies and employers’ funds, and that the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry will be the institution for the UIF distribution payments to workers through company payroll systems.

The signatories to the agreement include the SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu), the Apparel and Textile Association of SA (Atasa), and the newly named SA Apparel Association (SAAA).

The agreement will, among other things, see workers getting a full week’s wages, payable from worker funds received form the UIF, for the week ending April 12.

The employers agreed to pay the public holiday payments due to workers for April 10 and April 13. The parties agreed that after the lockdown period, employees shall be required to assist with making up lost production time.

“Employers undertake to ensure, after the Covid-19 lockdown period, that employees are provided the necessary and appropriate support to integrate them smoothly and safely back into production,” the agreement reads in part.

Nxesi has appealed to other sectors, including  banking, “to agree to this arrangement”, as the department wants to move away from the traditional model of claiming through labour centres.

Meanwhile, Business Day reports that the special Covid-19 lay-off benefit that will operate through the UIF was finalised on Tuesday when business, labour and the government finally reached agreement on the scheme at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

The scheme is the single biggest government initiative to provide relief to those in formal employment who will lose their income due to the lockdown.

The UIF has said it has R30bn in immediately accessible funds drawn from its accumulated reserves to fund the scheme.

The Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) is open to all employees, who, along with their employers, are contributors to the UIF and where the employer has closed operations, and employees have lost their income, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The amount of the benefit is based on a sliding scale of between 38% and 60% of earnings, where the lowest paid are at the top of the scale. A floor and ceiling are also in place, with the minimum monthly payment pegged at R3,500 in line with the minimum wage, and the maximum at R6,730.

The benefits will be available for up to three months.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za