People queue at the Parkview Post Office in Johannesburg. Picture: THE TIMES
People queue at the Parkview Post Office in Johannesburg. Picture: THE TIMES

The SA Post Office (Sapo) has refuted allegations by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) that it has breached Covid-19 occupational health and safety regulations by failing to screen workers and deep clean its workplaces.

The post office is among key government agencies allowed to operate during the lockdown as it distributes social grants to millions of beneficiaries across the country on behalf of the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa).

One employee at Sapo’s regional office in Bloemfontein has tested positive for Covid-19.

Thabo Lekota, CWU provincial secretary in the Free State, said they were concerned that the building the employee was working in was “never deep cleaned in accordance with the usual procedures applicable under Covid-19”.

“The failure of Sapo to properly clean and sanitise its workplaces is a serious risk to its employees and by extension to members of the public and Sassa beneficiaries,” Lekota said.

Lekota said if the employer did not rectify those issues, they would advise their members to refrain from work. The coronavirus has infected 17,200 and killed 312 people in SA.

In an e-mailed response to Business Day, the post office’s operations division refuted the allegation that an had employee contracted Covid-19 at the workplace.

“There is no Sapo Bloemfontein branch that has reported or picked up a suspected Covid-19 case,” the operations division stated.

It did, however, admit that there was an incident in the Bloemfontein regional office where an employee in the finance division tested positive in March while attending a church service.

“The incident was reported to the health authorities as required by the regulations, and with the intervention of the health authorities, the employee was immediately isolated and all those who were in contact with him were screened and isolated,” the operations division said.

“All staff in this regional office were subsequently screened and the workplace was deep cleaned and cleared to resume operations by health authorities. The employee has since recovered.”

The post office said the screening of employees and deep cleaning of all its sites nationwide is taking place throughout its various business areas earmarked to resume operations, as part of a phased approach to restart business activities allowed under the lockdown.

“Allowable quotas of returning employees have been identified and they have been provided with the requisite personal protective equipment and operating protocols in relation to social distancing, sanitisation and other measures recommended to minimise exposure,” the operations division said.

The CWU is an affiliate of trade union federation Cosatu, which has called on the government to downgrade from level 4 to level 3 lockdown “as soon as it is safe to do so”, and that the move must be guided by the need to save lives and minimise infections.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za