The City of Cape Town flagrant disregard for health and safety regulation in relation to the COVID 19 Pandemic is putting frontline workers in the safety and security department at lives at Risk.
It is believed that to date +/_ 24 employees in the safety and security sector has contracted the covid 19 virus. Our members in our affiliate DEMAWUSA have tried to raise their concerns with management at the lack of measures to minimise the risk at the workplace. In a Meeting with members the Deputy Chief Marais , instead of addressing the concerns of workers intimidated staff and refused to answer any questions relating to the workers’ health and safety. Instead she declared such question as being union questions which she was not prepared to answer. This we believe was in response to a number of letters written by DEMAWUSA and SAFTU to the Executive Director and the City Manager raising the concerns of the members and the lack of proper protocols in place to address the health and safety concerns of members.
The cold hearted response or lack of response from management is best captured by the response of Deputy Chief Marais to a question from a metro police officer who is a single parent asking what assistance the City would provide to her child if she should contract the virus, Marais responded to along the lines of if she was ill due to any other illness would the City provide any assistance and why should they in this case. Thus clearly the City does not see this pandemic as being a crisis and can be equated to any other illnesses workers could contract.
Among the issues and demands raised by the officers through their union, DEMAWUSA, in their correspondence to the City included the following:
• “As we are writing to you there are approximately fourteen (14) Metro Police officers that have contracted the virus.
• There is no risk assessment plan that have been developed with staff input or been made known to staff.
• The offices of the Metro Police are not been cleaned or sanitised daily or on a regular basis during the day.
• There are no protocols in place for when an employee’s contracts the virus – We have a case where an employee informed the office of his status on confirmation of his test results and asking assistance from the employer to assist him with getting an ambulance to take him to hospital due to him experiencing dilapidating symptoms of shortness of breath he was told to drive himself to Tygerberg he had to get some of his colleagues to assist him to get an ambulance to take him to hospital where he was admitted to ICU. He has thankfully subsequently been discharged from ICU.
• The City Provides no assistance to staff members or their families when they as officers contract the disease.
• Officers are told to bring Dettol or bleach from home to sanitise their patrol vehicles – no protocols in or PPE equipment provided for the sanitisation of patrol vehicles.
• Workers are unable to raise their concerns as they are told the issues they raising are union matters and will not be entertained.
• No Information given to workers on when officers contract the virus.
• A failure to close down workplaces where an infection has been detected.
• No decontamination rakes place of the workplace – in one instance the workplace continued to be open for two days before a team supposedly arrives to sanitise the workplace whilst workers were still working in the building.
• No screening g of employees taking place.
These are but some of the Risks the members off SAFTU and the general workforce of the City are confronted with.
We therefore call on the Department of Employment and labour to close down the Metro Police workstations until a proposer risk assessment is conducted with the input of staff which should include but not limited to the following:
• Proper protocols be developed in relation to sanitisation or deep cleaning of offices.
• Protocols relating to regular cleaning of offices and shared equipment.
• Proper protocols on the sanitisation of Patrol Vehicles.
• Developed a proper assistance programme for employees who contract the virus or presents with symptoms of the potential infection, which should include amongst others the following:
o Testing at the expense of the Employer.
o Isolation leave whilst waiting for test results
o Where results are positive – testing be provided for immediate family of infected officer at
expense of the employer.
o Assistance in terms of quarantine where the home circumstances do not allow for it
• Proper PPE be distributed to all staff which amongst others include hand sanitises, masks, face shields where applicable, sanitising agent for Patrol vehicles and shared equipment such as computers and workspaces.
• Employing more cleaning staff to ensure daily cleaning of offices on regular time basis during the day.
• Proper screening of all employees
• A proper communication system to convey crucial information to employees.
• Proper training on the virus as well as the proper use of PPE.”
AS SAFTU we had called on the Department of Employment and Labour to do a sit visit and close down the metro police stations until compliance with Health and Safety Regulations are complied with by the City.
We are grateful to the DEL sending out their Chief Inspector to do a sit visit this morning at the Metro Police Offices in Hudson Street in Cape Town.
From the reports received from our member who was present during the inspection it was confirmed the employer could not provide a risk assessment for the workplace neither could they indicate who the compliance officer, who must be appointed by the employer in the workplace to ensure the implementation of the risk assessment plan, was.
It is also reported that the Deputy Chief Marais who was present at the inspection has acted in an obstructive manner and refused to answer questions from the inspector. This is a contravention of the law and we request the DEL to act on holding the Deputy Chief accountable in terms of the law as her actions are clearly not in the interest of our members in Metro Police who are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis.