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Unions raise concerns over govt guidelines for essential workers during lockdown

Public service employees and other critical services of government would continue to function during the lockdown, which was enforced in an attempt to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

FILE: Cosatu's members marched on Parliament on 19 February 2019 amid concerns over potential job cuts at state entities, like Eskom. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – Public sector trade unions on Thursday said government had failed to set proper guidelines to govern the work of essential services staff during the 21-day lockdown.

Public service employees and other critical services of government would continue to function during the lockdown, which was enforced in an attempt to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

But, unions said a meeting held with government on Wednesday failed to clarify the protocols for the lockdown in most workplaces.

Eyewitness News spoke to police officials and nurses who were anxious about their deployments during the lockdown, explaining that they were not sure of the safety measures government would put in place as they had yet to be implemented.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said some clinics where their members worked had no water and sanitisers.

Cosatu’s joint mandating committee chairperson Mugwena Maluleke said: “We are talking more especially about nurses [as] they don’t have enough protective measures for those who will be coming into contact with possibly infected people.”

The unions were also concerned about leave, saying a decision about whether a special leave dispensation should be passed was yet to be made.

Public service workers who spoke to EWN said in some departments non-essential staff members were expected to take annual leave during the lockdown period.

On Thursday afternoon, government, labour, and business were expected to meet at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) in a last-ditch attempt to finalise all outstanding matters pertaining to the enforcement of the lockdown.

WATCH: SA on lockdown: Here’s what you need to know

To track the latest developments around the coronavirus both in South Africa and abroad, click on this live status report from Strategix.

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