A woman remains in critical condition in hospital, after having contracted COVID-19. She has accused her employer, the Department of Public Works of refusing to allow her to work from home.
She has a history of lung-related illnesses and now her union has entered the fray, also accusing the department of failing to follow COVID-19 occupational health and safety protocols in the workplace. So far, 12 employees at the Department of Public Works’ head office have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Public Servants Association says the lives of employees have been compromised.
“We have contacted each minister within the public service to enquire and see whether they are complying with the regulations, so if someone finds themselves being forced to come to work while ill they can contact their union,” says Olivia Mashigo, Public Servants Association Gauteng.
They have called on the Chief Health Inspector in Gauteng to intervene after finding out that an employee who was forced to work from the office is now critically ill as a result of having contracted the coronavirus.
“We are very appalled and in shock that a senior manager would force someone who has a history of pneumonia to come to work and we find that to be extremely disturbing regarding the working relationship between an employer and an employee. If they experience that their manager is bullying them or victimizing them then they can lodge a grievance,” says Mashigo.
The employee’s family has been left reeling as their loved one fights for her life in hospital, in ICU on a ventilator.
They also blame her employer for refusing to allow her to work from home despite the fact that she had underlying illnesses.
Her spouse says he wants recourse for his partner but fears further victimisation being meted out against the family.
“There was a time when she did lodge a grievance to one of the managers of unfair treatment, bullying and sidelining at the time. Its difficult to try and comfort the young children and our extended families are panicking because we can all see that this thing is real,” says the spouse.
In the video below, Public Works under fire over critically ill woman:
Chief inspector for the Department of Labour says legislation allows for vulnerable workers to work from home. He has cautioned that employers could be held liable if a vulnerable staff member falls ill or dies.
“A vulnerable worker is defined by the Department of Health as any person with underlying issues or comorbidities that may place them at a high risk or complication or death than another employee if infected with COVID-19 or they may be over 60 the relevance of this cannot be underplayed, the legislation allows for them to work form home,” says Tibor Sizana, National Chief Inspector: Occupational Health And Safety
In a written response to the SABC, the Department of Public Works has denied the allegations and says they will be investigating the matter.
Meanwhile the manager in question has since provided a report to the Director General who is to give a report back on the matter in the near future.
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) July 31, 2020