Civil servants working through the shutdown will be kept safe: Mchunu
The government has committed to implementing measures to ensure that civil servants providing essential services during the impending lockdown are kept from harm.
This is according to public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu, who was addressing the media on measures his department was taking to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 on thousands of civil servants who remain on the frontline at their desks during the lockdown.
Mchunu said the government was fully aware of the anxiety that was setting in among public servants such as nurses, doctors, police, soldiers and others who would be involved in fighting the deadly respiratory disease, while their other colleagues remained safe at home.
“I am well aware and conscious of the fact that public servants are very anxious about this difficult situation facing us. We are in different terrain. We are in a state of war to contain the spread of the pandemic - and if it is not contained, it will also devastate the public service,” he said.
“We would like to assure all public servants who are providing critical and essential services that we will ensure a safe working environment. We have directed all heads of department to make specific arrangements and provide public transport to staff performing critical and essential services. We have also undertaken to increase protection in the workplace.”
Mchunu said his department was enlisting the skills of those who have retired from the public service.
“We have also taken a decision to approach retired and former public servants with required skills, such as health professionals and engineers, for deployment to critical services where needed,” he said.
“We are very heartened that public servants, especially in the health and security sectors, have been mobilised and readily agreed to serve the nation during this desperate hour of service and the role they need to play.”
Asked about the unresolved dispute between the government and labour unions over the government's proposal to pull out of a 2018 wage agreement as a cost-cutting measure, Mchunu said this was not the time to dwell on that issue.
“Organised labour share the concern about coronavirus and are contributing in the fight. I haven’t heard any union making a statement to the contrary and we appreciate that we are all united and we don’t want that to be confused with any other thing,” he said when asked about the status of the agreement.
“We need to park that and not dwell on any speculation and deal with the matter when we cross that particular bridge.”