A Tourism Update reader, HR and Payroll Administrator for Nomad Africa Adventure Tours, Pieter du Toit, has shared his open letter to Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, which calls for further support from the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employment Relief Scheme.

This follows confirmation yesterday (June 29) from Nxesi that the UIF TERS benefits will expire by today (June 30) – as per the initial Directive of March 26. 

Nxesi explained that this was because the payments were intended as a stop-gap measure for a period of three months or until such time that lockdown restrictions were eased and the economy slowly reopened.

“The payments by the UIF should be seen in the context of government-wide basket of services and interventions to ease the burden of the coronavirus. In the process, and because this is unprecedented, a few mistakes occurred but detractors fail to see the magnitude of the work that has been done and the relief that it has brought to many people in our country.” 

A statement from Nxesi highlighted that, to date, an amount of R8.4 billion (€431 million) has been paid out (as of June 24).

Du Toit told Tourism Update: “We need to convince government we are going to experience very dark times in our industry if we do not get further assistance from them until our sector is fully reopened.”

 

The full letter

“Based on the announcement from the Minister I wish to make an appeal to the Minister (and our government) to extend its support of the TERS programme.

We are a company in the tourism industry and, more specifically, a tour operator – one of many others in South Africa. As the Minister will be aware, we are still completely unable to return to any kind of operations, and it seems by all indications that we will still be in the same boat for quite some time in the foreseeable future.

Our company’s call is for the continuation of the TERS benefit beyond the end of June, and not only for ourselves, but each and every other tour operator and tourism business that is also affected by the pandemic and unable to resume any kind of operations.

We want to suggest that the Honourable Minister, in discussions with government, consider the continuation of the TERS benefit only to those companies still under complete lockdown and unable to return to any kind of operations, thus being unable to generate any kind of income.

Whether we continue to claim TERS or have to send our employees off to the Department of Labour’s Offices with UI-19 forms in their hands declaring no income from the company is one and the same – the Government benefit of UIF will apply to them.

Unfortunately, our company will not be able to stay sustainable in the support of our employees without assistance to them – thus forcing our hand as employer to go the retrenchment route and then further contributing to South Africa’s already ‘out-of-hand’ unemployment figures.

This is a lose/lose situation for all parties, but without the support of government (be it personal UIF or through TERS) to our employees we will face a very bleak but damning future.

Our company has been successful with our TERS applications and the distribution to our employees since its inception – and we are proud to say we are also amongst the compliant employers.

In our view, those industries and companies that have been allowed to return to operations, are now in a position to generate income and pay salaries, and should they still not be able to run a full week or month but still have to apply short-time or temporary lay-offs, then their staff must claim for the loss of income through the normal UIF channels.

I am of the opinion, and this is a personal opinion, if our government continues to give companies that are able to operate, an ‘option of alternative income to pay salaries’ the system will continue to be ‘abused’. Put them on their own feet – tell them there is no more assistance from government for operating businesses, and the survival instincts will change quickly to planned and continued operations, ensuring viability and survival.

We wish to thank you, Minister, for your time and also all the assistance that Government was able to render throughout this pandemic thus far. We, and many others in our industry, do truly and honestly appreciate it. We sincerely hope that the above request is a matter that could be taken into serious consideration by the Minister and our Government.”