Some members of the Restaurant Owners’ Association in Pretoria say they are concerned about the non-payment by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to most of its staff.
The Tshwane Tourism Association, which represents most restaurant owners in the capital city, says only a small percentage of its members’ staff have been paid.
It says this is despite the UIF’s COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme creating the impression that it has paid them.
The Minister of Employment and Labour @NxesiThulas has come out blazing against employers who have receive @UIFBenefits #Covid19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme benefits from the UIF but are not passing on the money to workers. Full statement https://t.co/yzoPk9HFH7 pic.twitter.com/Dam68INj7E
— Department of Employment and Labour (@deptoflabour) May 8, 2020
The industry in Gauteng employs around 300 000 people. Restaurant owners are appealing to government to pay all their staff what is due to them as tensions are mounting between employees and employers.
Jacquie Schubach runs a popular eatery in Pretoria. Her restaurant employs 28 people. Like many other businesses, the national lockdown has had a severe financial impact on Schubach’s business.
She’s one of the many restaurant owners frustrated by the UIF’s alleged non-payment of staff. Schubach says the fund has only paid only half of her staff. She says she’s been getting no joy from the UIF portal.
“One of my guys has been with me for eight years and he has been contributing for all those years, why have we gotten nothing for him? Every single week, we keep applying and it becomes a tedious process where you get no joy, you get no answers. Why have we left out the foreigners from the UIF? If they are contributing towards the economy, they have work permits and they are paying their monthly UIF, they are paying their taxes. Are they not entitled to also receive the benefits?,” says Schubach.
Greg Patsolosavis is another frustrated restaurant owner. He runs several restaurants in the capital which employ 185 permanent and 65 part-time staff. He says only a small portion of his staff have been paid, while the rest keep playing the waiting game.
Patsolosavis’ had to dig deep into his pockets to try and pay salaries, but there simply isn’t enough to cover all employees. He says this dilemma has since created tension and mistrust between him and his workers.
“Around about 40-50% of those staff haven’t been paid yet, some of them have. There’s now a portal put together that has basically made the staff say to the restaurateur but you have been paid, if you’ve been paid, why I haven’t been paid. What makes me different from the person next to me, the guy I have been working with for the last 6 years, for the last 15 years?,” says Patsolosavis.
— UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FUND (UIF) (@UIFBenefits) May 8, 2020
Patsolosavis says they are now beginning to doubt the capabilities of the fund and may even be forced to look at alternatives.
“We feel very helpless right now; the problem is how do we trust the UIF moving forward? After lockdown, do we continue to pay our 1% to the UIF, if they can’t help us now what’s gonna happen in future? Some of the restaurateurs have said maybe it’s better we take that 1% we pay and open our own funds, then we can actually put the money in there and allow our own brokers or someone who’s independent to monitor it for us, to help the staff out,” says Patsolosavis.
The Tshwane Tourism’s Association says the UIF’s online portal which shows that businesses have received funds is misleading as not all employees have been paid.
The association says many employees continue to go hungry despite contributing to the fund. The association’s Andy Papadopulo is appealing to government to clarify the discrepancies and fast-track the payments.
“As an association, we would love to see government engage with us on this matter, engage with us a bit further. We would also like to see the UIF make the same payments they have made to other industries because we have heard of other industries being paid on time, a 14-hour turnaround and this hasn’t been the case. Even though all our records are up to date, information that has been submitted on numerous occasions is correct and we’ve had that verified two or three times, we’d just like to get around the table and discuss this with them and gorge a way forward,” says Papadopulo.
The UIF has disbursed close to R11 billion in relief benefits to over 1.9 employees.
In this video, the Restaurant Owners Association discusses the non-payment of workers: