State-owned enterprises Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) have not yet responded with operational plans to protect their staff working on operational levels, at depots or serving the public at stations from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) received complaints from members nationwide, that their respective employers neglected to supply them with masks, hand sanitizers, fever testers or even toilet rolls in accordance with Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Act requires every employer to provide and maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the Health of its Employees.

Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, who represents the majority of employees working for both Transnet and Prasa, says the guidelines provided by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night, when he declared COVID-19 a National Disaster, were immediately implemented in the most corporate offices of both Prasa and Transnet.

UNTU members at all operational levels wants to know what steps are these SOE’s taking to prevent the contraction and spread of COVID-19 in places of work like train control offices, mess rooms, ablution facilities, on trains and in kitchens.

Despite President Ramaphosa’s appeal for travelling to be limited, employees working for Metrorail had to continue running an overcrowded passenger train service.

Harris says UNTU requested Prasa to allow employees of the suspended Mainline Passenger Services (MLPS), also known as Shosoloza Meyl, to stay at home. The Railway Safety Regulator prohibited MLPS from running a service a month ago. UNTU is still waiting for Prasa to respond.

In the meantime, Transnet established a “Group Occupational and Wellness” Task Team with a representative from each business unit, but struggled to provide assistance and responses to the operational employees.

At depots of both Transnet and Prasa the Union had to take action to ensure that our members have access to clean water.

UNTU will continue to monitor the situation and to give guidance to our members as COVID-19 seems to spread like a wildfire. The Union appeals to all its members to adhere to the measures implemented to try and prevent them from getting sick.

UNTU members who experience any of the following symptoms, should consult a doctor for medical advice immediately:
• Runny nose
• Sore throat
• Cough
• Fever
• Pneumonia
• Difficulty breathing (severe cases)

If any of our members feel that your employer is not addressing concerns in the workplace, please address the issue with your elected UNTU Trade Union Representatives.

If the situation is not addressed, UNTU members must please report concerns to or send a WhatsApp to 082 463 6806 in order for your concerns to be addressed by the UNTU Secretariat. UNTU will keep a paper trail to ensure that the issues are addressed.

Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Deputy-General Secretary: Media, Liaison and Communication.

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