The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is currently in talks with the government regarding a possible extension of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) relief scheme.
The UIF Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) was set up by the government to provide financial relief to workers and employers financially affected by the effects of the lockdown. Recently, the UIF announced it would be discontinuing TERS as it had reached maximum payouts.
Cosatu's Parliamentary Co-ordinator, Matthew Parks said the union had not been made aware that TERS would be put to an end.
"They had given us indication that yes it would be extended so we were quite shocked to hear by the side, not even officially that the National Command Council had just decided unilaterally without engaging labour or business to cancel it,"
He said Cosatu had asked the government to continue with TERS in order to provide support to workers who are unable to work because of the restrictions and to provide long term assistance to businesses affected.
Parks said the government should be open to negotiations because it does not contribute towards the UIF, as the fund is built on contributions from workers.
He said cancelling TERS could have a more negative impact on businesses and the country in the long term.
"If you just simply cancel it and still ban workers from working, you'll encourage those workers to defy the restrictions and to go back to work. That will put their lives at risk and also contribute possibly to a second wave of infections which we cannot afford,"
According to Parks, the government does have funds available but it is choosing to not pay workers. He has called for banks to also contribute towards businesses that have been struggling to operate during this time.
Parks wants the government to honour its agreements in the future and not allow itself to be swayed.
Cosatu has been in meetings with the government and will continue to meet in the hopes of reaching an agreement that will be favourable for workers.