Thousands of workers in the clothing manufacturing industry became the first in SA to receive payouts from the Covid-19 relief fund run by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
This comes after employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi extended a ground-breaking agreement reached by textile industry stakeholders last week, to nonparties, which allows for the sector’s employees to be paid their full wages for a six-week Covid-19 lockdown period.
Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi told parliament on Wednesday that R1.6bn had been paid out to more than 37,000 companies and 606,000 workers by the end of business on Tuesday.
“I need to state unambiguously that the UIF is delivering,” he said.
Nxesi was addressing a meeting of parliament’s oversight committees on employment and labour on his department’s plans to process the UIF and Compensation Fund claims, as well as conducting inspections and enforcements during the lockdown.
Marthie Raphael, national chair of the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry of SA, said the council received its first tranche of worker UIF funds on Friday “which was to compensate workers for loss of wages for the first full day of the lockdown, March 27, and which was the last day of that pay-week in the clothing industry”.
“On the same day that the funds were received, these worker UIF monies were seamlessly transmitted from the bargaining council’s special dedicated Covid-19 bank account to the wage-bank accounts of 367 companies employing 38,751 employees”.
Apparel and Textile Association of SA (Atasa) executive director Rajen Naicker echoed Baard, saying: “We believe that it was the proactive decision to try to secure payments to workers during the lockdown. We didn’t anticipate that our workers will join the queue at the UIF offices as [that would have gone] against the call for a lockdown.”