Overzealous Labour Department chiefs are tearing down progressive labour resource centres which have been fast-tracking the workersâ€™ occupational disease and injury claims in the provinces.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) leadership, together with other stakeholders, including leading universities and occupational health experts view the decision by the department as abhorrent, grossly short-sighted and irreversible wastage of resources.
We regard this action as a "chainsaw massacre" of well-organized and efficient entities which is prompted by so-called inability to access more funds when the five-year backlog of unprocessed occupational disease claims remained insurmountable.
Compensation Board recently announced the closing down of the centres without prior consultations and terminated the contracts which provided infrastructural support to the project with effect from April 30, 2008.
The centres, affectionately known as provincial medical advisory panels (PMAP) provided key resources project of the Labour Departmentâ€™s Compensation Fund which substantially improved and decentralize core functions of the fund, which is tipped over disfunctionality.
Thousands of workers with occupational diseases and injuries turned to these PMAP centres for assistance because they had no access to medical specialists and to have their unprocessed occupational diseases claims paid out within four months.
Numsa is also of the view that so much has been spent in the investment on these entities in so many years of the existence of the PMAPS and the compensation fund drew a lot from leading university experts in evaluating occupational disease claims where valid claims were declined due to lack of technical skills from company doctors, said Numsa national health and safety coordinator.
We further believe the decision to close these centres is in contrast to the Labour ministry plans to ensure more accessibility of the compensation fund to both employees on the shop floor and employers.
Lastly, we demand that the department invest more money forthwith on the extension of these panel initiatives, instead of closing them as slow turnaround time in arbitrating and assessing the cases will be made more difficult by few medical doctors in the department.
For more information contact:-
Mziwakhe Hlangani, Numsa national spokesperson
Cell phone: 082940 7116
Numsa Press Releases