Unemployed people queue for UIF payments. Picture: JAMES OATWAY
Unemployed people queue for UIF payments. Picture: JAMES OATWAY

About two months ago in a parliamentary labour portfolio committee meeting I brought the possibility of thousands of employees being put on leave because of the coronavirus. This question was posed to the commissioner of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, in the presence of the responsible minister. UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping assured the committee that the department was ready to tackle the thousands of applications that might come forward.

It now appears that while the funding is not a problem, the department is completely dysfunctional. Over and above this the minister, in his wisdom, decided to spell out a situation to the nation that is not correct, telling employees that they are entitled to their salaries while told to stay at home during lockdown. Not only is this incorrect, it is probably one of the most damaging pieces of fake news the labour community has heard.

In line with the minister’s advice the business community has panicked, the trade unions have advised their members they will get paid, and the government appears to have endorsed the fake news. My letter to the editor outlining the actual legal situation was correct (Labour laws are still in effect, March 29). This not only reflected the legal situation as it stands now, but as it has stood over the past 25 years.

The minister has made a grave mistake and he should apologise and correct the situation instead of fudging it.

Michael Bagraim
DA labour spokesperson

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