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As the COVID-19 pandemic moves across the world, every link along the agriculture industry supply chain is stepping up to keep employees and consumers safe while still providing food and essential services.  Agribusinesses vowed to keep facilities operating while enacting stricter hygiene and sanitary measures, however, in these challenging times nothing is business as usual and these exceptional circumstances have highlighted the importance of ensuring the well-being and fair treatment of workers.

Across the country, the agriculture industry is concerned about logistic issues, whether it is moving products or having enough healthy employees to keep facilities operational. In this issue, we share tips on transport as well as useful information for working remotely.

Travel to and from the farm

Travelling in agriculture during COVID-19 lockdown regulations

Employees need permits to travel to and from the farm/business site. A permit to perform essential services is required. This permit is in GNR 398 in Government Gazette, number 43148, Vol. 657 published on March 25, 2020. Refer to Regulation 11B (3), Form 1 in Appendix C. This pro forma document has been published by the government.

If the farming activity is food production or is involved in harvesting and storage essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural products, the worker can continue working, as this is deemed an essential service (refer to GNR 419 Government Gazette, number 43168 of 26 March 2020 - Appendix B to the regulations).
 
Getting authorisation for essential members of staff to travel to and from your farm
 
Contact your local farmers’ association. A Permit to Perform Essential Services (Regulation 11b (3) pro forma) is published in the Government Gazette, No. 43147 Vol. 657 of 25 March 2020.
Rotational staff travel between shifts

Rotational staff will be able to leave farms and use public transport to do so, subject to presentation of an employer/business permit letter and an identity document. In terms of Regulation 11C (2) of GNR 398 of 25 March 2020, the employer must make the necessary transport arrangements. Private vehicles must not exceed 60% of the licensed capacity and that all directions regarding hygienic conditions and the restriction of exposure of persons to COVID-19 are complied with, see Regulation 11C (4) of GNR. 446 Government Gazette, No. 43199 of 2 April 2020. In the case of a taxi or bus, 70% of the licensed capacity of the vehicle may not be exceeded, and 60% in the case of a private vehicle.

Travelling on Farms

How to travel between farms with agri-workers and equipment if you have several farms in different areas

Regulation 11 B (1) (a) (iii) in GNR. 446 Government Gazette, No. 43199 of April 2, 2020, prohibits movement between provinces and between metropolitan and district areas except— (aa) for essential workers travelling to and from work. Police have confirmed that travel to provide essential products and services across provincial borders and between metros and district municipalities is permissible.
How to transport agri-workers living in villages that need to be transported daily

If the farm is involved in food production or activities that are deemed harvesting and storage of primary agricultural produce to prevent wastage, then workers will be allowed to move under strict rules. Farmers will likely need to provide transport within the framework of the regulations. We suggest that members make use of the permit to perform essential services.
Transport of seasonal workers

Unfortunately, there is still no information about the transport of seasonal workers. We realize this is a serious issue and will inform our members as soon as there is a ruling on this.

Working from home

Keeping to a routine is of paramount importance when working from home. It is easy to fall into a cycle of working at random intervals, which can have negative impacts on your productivity, livelihood and relationships at home. Here are some useful tips for keeping to a routine while working from home. 
Testing for Coronavirus on a farm

Farmers should continue to keep the organisation operational by practising social distancing and good hygiene. Physical contact should be limited as far as is reasonably possible. If the employer has a thermometer/screening instrument available at their disposal, they may conduct screening tests at work. If an employee has a high temperature, they should be isolated. The hotline number 0800 029 999 must be called immediately if someone is suspected of carrying the virus. A workplace in agriculture does not constitute a "gathering" and is exempt to the 100 people gathering rule; however, measures need to be strict. There is no point carrying on with business as usual until someone becomes ill, therefore it is important to practice prevention.
Regarding informal retailers in townships
 
Grocery stores and informal retailers ("spaza" shops) are considered essential services. Refer to Government Notice 43148 issued March 25, 2020. see also GNR. 446 Government Gazette, No. 43199 of 2 April 2020, which also confirms that informal retailers may remain open during the lockdown.

What to do when...

There is a fear of infection
 
If employees do not want to come to work for fear of infection, then the circumstances of the workplace must be taken into account before deciding on an appropriate reaction. If the refusal to work is unreasonable, disciplinary action may be considered but disciplinary steps should be a last resort and must be carefully considered before implemented.
Contact Antonia Lesch to order cloth face masks or 70% alcohol volume hand sanitizer.
Antonialesch238@gmail.com
073 275 3448

Additional Guidance and Resources

Contact the SIZA staff for assistance:
Retha Louw: 0823027507
Lynn Taute: 071 677 4435
Carmen Botes: 084 625 6396
Werner van Dyk: 082 062 1751
Henko Vlok: 076 855 6850
Karla Hoogendijk: 078 382 4438
Jo-Anne September: 078 120 9002
Lizzy Sebati: 079 766 2010
SIZA COVID-19 Resources
Department of Labour FAQs
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