An employee at a Checkers Store in Sunningdale in Cape Town, says the store continued to operate as normal despite having a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.
The employee, who is a cashier, is one of those who came into contact with another cashier who tested positive last month.
Labour inspectors are investigating the incident. The concerned employee paints a picture of a food chain store that allegedly puts profit before the safety of workers.
However fearing victimisation, the whistle-blowing employee wants to stay anonymous.
“This cashier who was positive reported for duty, because apparently if you don’t go to work even if you don’t send your paper they don’t pay you, so that’s the reason why she went to work,” says anonymous.
The employee says that the positive staff member came into contact with other colleagues.
“She made contact with me and other cashiers as well. You can also think about how many people got infected, because from the taxi, securities who were searching her, because she was not wearing a mask. Security personnel might have contracted the virus as well, so she worked maybe for a few hours and the supervisor went to her and asked for the paper.”
According to the employee, the store allegedly wanted it to be kept secret and continue with business as usual, to cash in on the misfortunes of another Checker Store that was closed, due to a confirmed positive case.
“The supervisor demanded the paper, later on, she cashed up and she went home. But still, they told us we must not talk about the COVID. The shop will continue as normal and we must think now, we are gaining more customers since Bayside is closed. We are gaining more customers. And that day, they were not even counting customers, people were just going in. There were many customers inside,” says anonymous.
The employee says they fear that they might have been infected in the process.
“Yes, I am worried even if I was wearing my mask but that one was not wearing anything and she was standing next to me.”
The Labour inspectors in the Western Cape have visited the store. The Provincial Chief Inspector of Labour in the province David Esau investigated the incident at the Checkers saying there was something sinister.
“There is a couple of things that went wrong there which I wasn’t happy with the story and there is a continuous investigation that I am looking into. This person reported unwell on the 18th (April) and according to the management of Shoprite she was sent home. However, when we checked the record, she wasn’t sent home. She finished off at six o’clock which is the normal closure for the store so that in itself is a discrepancy for me.”
In his investigation, Esau says he found more.
“The second one is when she was sent for a test and she brought the medical certificate to say she is not entering the fourteen-day [quarantine] to wait for the results, she was not allowed to enter the store. It also happened that she entered the store and came to work on the 25th which was still within 14 days. And heaven below, the employer says to me he didn’t know she was at work. Now how can somebody enter a workplace start sitting at your cash till, getting your cash, start working and after three hours somebody tried to identify and say, hey you are not supposed to be at work, to me that was the biggest problem that I had with that store.”
The store could face closure if other employees were infected with the coronavirus.
Esau elaborates: “So currently we are waiting for the results of people that have been around her, on the 25th. And if that people anyone of them happen to be positive, that store will also have to close indefinitely.”
Shoprite Media responded to the SABC in an e-mail about the allegations made by the whistleblower.
Although Checkers was never asked to reveal the name of any employee who tested positive, it responded by saying:
“To protect employees’ privacy we cannot provide detailed information with regards to specific cases. We appeal to the media to understand this and please respect patient confidentiality governed by law. Confirmed cases are reported by the authorities.”
The statement further says, “The Group closely follows the guidelines and advisory updates provided by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and continuously consults with the Department of Health who guide us on actions to be taken in these unprecedented times. We believe it would be in the better interest of the dissatisfied staff members to rather make use of the established channels, to raise matters of concern for the alleged issues to receive the necessary attention and be investigated constructively.”
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