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Conferences  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU Input by 2nd Deputy President, Cde Losi Zingiswa on effective responses to HIV and TB at work 7th SA AIDS Conference

9 June 2015

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is humbled by this invitation into this important gathering and I bring revolutionary greetings from workers of our movement COSATU.
Over the years we have seen how the world has being involved in the response against HIV and AIDS. And in our country it has been a huge battle from the challenges we had previously. And we must appreciate our government from changing those challenges to hope for the communities.
We have seen how government revised and developed the Code of Good Practice on HIV and AIDS in the World of Work in 2012, based on the ILO Recommendation 200. It is critical that as South African employers together with employees, and the trade unions, we do introspection on how far we have adhered to the code.
This is critical because of the rate of infection in South Africa.
We must assure you that HIV and TB are and will always be a huge concern for workers and their trade unions.
As we have indicated above that government has made provision for workplace response, the employers should be equally concerned because it has been established that protection of workers against HIV and TB is critical. We must applaud all the employers doing as much as they can.
We have been requested to provide an input on the Effective Response to HIV and TB at work, and I can assure you the word effective differs from one person to another unless you have guidelines and procedures of what that entails.
This is quality assurance in other field of work.
We asked ourselves what does effective mean and this is what we believe effective response is.
1. We note that HIV and AIDS are both still surrounded by ignorance, unfair discrimination and stigma, through pre-employment HIV testing and dismissals due to HIV status.
2. We note that the workplace not a safe-working environment for people living with HIV
3. We note that workers are still blackmailed into testing by employers providing some incentive and is just to show the shareholders and the investors that they are somehow dealing with HIV.
4. We note that not all the employers have policies and programmes to deal with HIV, and it is even not part of their budget.
5. We note that workers are not involved in the development of the policies, programmes, grievance procedures to deal with HIV.
6. We note that employers will still find a way to dismiss and HIV positive employee even if it is not allowed to do that.
7. We note that employers still have no room for alternative accommodation for that HIV positive workers whose immune system is at a low and they are not able to fully do their work.
8. We note that employers are not able to provide extra leave days for workers to collect their treatment, or when they are bedridden instead they will quickly have discussions about incapacity to get rid of the employee.
9. We have noted with sadness the dual infection of the twins HIV and TB, and how employers are still not having the proper response for both
10. We have noted how workplace prevention strategies are more focused on young workers and exclude older married women
11. Fundamentally as labour we do note that the relationship with the employer and employee is for the workers to produce and the employer to pay. Does this mean that this is where it start and ends.
An overarching problem we have as labour is that if we are expecting an effective response in the workplace the instrument that we have, which is the code of good practice is not a legally binding tool for the employers.
And of course we do realise it is strengthened by other legislations like the employment equity act, health and safety act, labour relations act, compensation for occupational diseases, mine health and safety act and so on.
If we want to be that effective we must have a discussion amongst ourselves about having an act.
We therefore believe that effective ways of responding to HIV and TB, is for all the employers to have effective comprehensive policies that aspires to manage and reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS in the workplace through the implementation of an HIV and AIDS programmes.
The effective comprehensive response must:
1. reduce discrimination and stigma
2. reduce risky behaviour
3. show impact of the education provided to the workers
4. increase the correct use of condom and femidoms
5. increases demand of voluntary counselling and testing more for couples
6. increase access and adherence to treatment
7. increase days for sick leave for people living with HIV
8. provision of alternative accommodation for people living with HIV
9. a comprehensive peer education programme

Overall comrades our effective response must show lack of absence in the workplace and a productive workforce,
A better relationship between the employers and their employees, we believe that employees are your most important asset in the workplace.
I thank you!