Time for government relief officials to step up

PAYOUT PROSPECTS: Unemployed people cannot queue for UIF payments during the lockdown
PAYOUT PROSPECTS: Unemployed people cannot queue for UIF payments during the lockdown
Image: JAMES OATWAY

In a perfect country, where people follow the rules, systems work seamlessly and civil servants are 100% committed to serving the public, economic and social relief measures provided by the government in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic would run smoothly.  Ours is not a perfect country, far from it.

Even without the pressures of a global pandemic on the economy, or even our general problems in SA of an erratic power and water supply impacting on job security, our labour department offices are generally under tremendous pressure.

Therefore, when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a R500bn economic support package for SA, to help businesses, workers and various government departments, the implementation was never going to be without problems.

And we have begun to see the effects on the ground. People are desperate.

Just a month ago, what many thought was a stable work environment has been turned on its head and no company is exempt.

It is even more so for the smaller businesses, the mom-and-pop operations, that barely break even every month, let alone have extra money to cover salaries for a prolonged period of time.

Workers told this newspaper that they feared no longer being able to provide for their families.

Some have not been paid in five weeks — a very difficult pill to swallow, especially when it hits so suddenly.

Some whose hopes of receiving a UIF payout were dashed have been left destitute and they feel they have nowhere to turn.

The dire situation was evident as hundreds queued outside the labour department offices this week.

The Covid-19 pandemic, and the subsequent nationwide lockdown, was unforeseen; therefore, no-one was prepared for it.

However, now is the time for government staffers who are meant to process applications and payments to companies and workers to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

For many people, that money can mean the difference between a roof over their heads or being out on the streets.

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