Post Office Job Cuts Loom as Covid Relief Effort Fails

In a devastating blow to thousands of South African workers, an attempt to tap Covid-19 relief funds earmarked for saving jobs at the embattled Post Office has fallen through. This dashes hopes of avoiding massive layoffs at the cash-strapped state entity.

Post Office Job Cuts Loom as Covid Relief Effort Fails
Post Office Job Cuts Loom as Covid Relief Effort Fails

Just last week, business rescue practitioners had announced a deal with labor unions to curtail retrenchments for unionized Post Office employees. The plan hinged on securing funding from the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters).

Under the proposed arrangement, Ters would cover 75% of impacted workers’ salaries for up to a year, with the Post Office chipping in the remaining 25%. This reprieve was meant to buy time for retraining efforts while keeping paychecks flowing.

“We were hopeful the Ters funding would provide temporary relief to upskill and retrain staff for possible job placements while still earning a salary,” said practitioner Anoosh Rooplal.

But on Wednesday, that sliver of optimism disintegrated after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) adjudication committee declined to recommend granting the funds.

A Devastating Outcome for Thousands

The withdrawal of termination letters had been conditional on successfully securing Ters aid. With that lifeline now severed, a staggering 4,889 bargaining unit employees at the Post Office face imminent retrenchment.

“We tried our best to make a final attempt to limit retrenchment impact, but we’re deeply sorry for the turmoil this rejection has caused families,” Rooplal stated solemnly.

Despite the government’s offer to assist with placing retrained workers, practitioners admit this transient aid could have achieved “a better outcome” for the thousands now adrift.

A Long-Troubled Entity Seeking Rebirth

The Post Office’s woes extend far beyond the pandemic’s economic toll. Under the proposed business rescue plan, a staggering 6,000 of the company’s 11,000 employees would be laid off to slash annual labor costs to R1.2 billion.

Practitioners cite an urgent need to “strengthen leadership, management and technical expertise” to drive a long-overdue cultural overhaul within the distressed SOE.

After racking up R4.5 billion in debt, including R400 million in rental arrears, the Post Office entered business rescue proceedings last July amid creditor litigation.

As the sector’s turnaround hopes fade, the human toll and breadlines created by this latest setback are impossible to ignore. For thousands of South African families, the fallout will be deeply personal.

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