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COVID-19 RENDERS 100 GOVT CONTRACT WORKERS JOBLESS

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MBABANE – The number of people losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing.
Over 100 government employees under the Central Statistic Office (CSO), who were engaged on a one-year contract, have been left jobless after they received letters informing them that their contracts of employment had been suspended.


The employees were contracted to conduct a survey, known as the Eswatini Annual Agricultural Survey 2019/2020.
The survey has since been stopped by government, leading to the suspension of the contracts.
According to impeccable sources, the employees started working in December 2019 and were supposed to stop in July 31.


Letters


However, on April 21, they received letters informing them that their contracts had since been suspended. They received their last pay at the end of April.
What is now a concern to them is that they have not been paid their May salaries.
“It was not indicated in the letter that we would not get paid at the end of May. We just assumed that we would continue being paid until our contracts ended in July,” said a source.


The letter from the director of Statistics simply explained that the suspension of the contracts was due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Survey
“The Central Statistics Office (CSO) in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development would like to inform you with regret that the Eswatini Annual Agricultural Survey (EAAS) for 2019 to 2020 agricultural season is suspended. The last date of data collection will be the 30th April 2020 and all contracts concerning this project will be suspended until further notice. Rented houses should be vacated and vehicles returned.


“As the country and the global world is being affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has been declared as a national emergency, the Government of Eswatini, through the Ministry of Public Service, has decided to suspend the project until further notice,” reads the letter in part.
According to the memorandum, the office had observed the exposure of field work staff to the coronavirus as high since they enumerated in all regions of the country and data credibility had been disturbed due to cases of refusals from respondents in the field.


“A number of respondents have called the office to complain about being disturbed by our work while they were taking precautions to isolate themselves from the public as announced by the Ministry of Health. The office will wait for cabinet to advise when it will be ideal to continue with the project and all our current staff will be considered as a priority,” further reads the letter.
Director of Statistics Colin Shabalala confirmed that his office had issued letters suspending the contracts of EAAS field staff, but did not want to comment further on the matter.


In an interview with some of the staff members whose contracts had been suspended, they said they understood that these were not normal times. “We understand the decision of the office, but our concern is that we were not told in advance that we would not receive salaries at the end of May,” they said briefly.


Statement


According to a statement from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security issued on April 8, 2020 under the clause ‘Variation of Contracts of Employment’,  a variation of terms and conditions of employment of an employee shall be permitted during the declared period of national emergency if this becomes necessary in order to save life and property or to meet basic needs of the business or enterprise concerned; provided that such variation shall not be to the extent of exposing the employee to hazardous and unsafe working conditions.

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