Construction Workers Feel Unsafe

South Africa. Following the tragic death of their fellow friend and colleague who was killed after a building collapsed recently, construction workers at the Parkview Centre in Woodhill (Pretoria) speak out.

“It is not right, he was a good person and worker but they (the developers) do not care, they treat us like dirt,” says construction worker Johannes.

Johannes along with three other co-workers spoke to Rekord claiming the construction workers are treated unfairly, have no rights and when they question unsafe conditions, are told by site managers to leave if they are not happy.

The three workers are employed by the GD Irons Construction company, who is currently building the new centre for developers Christoudoulou Holdings.

They have lashed out at the company’s management following the building collapse recently, claiming this is the third collapse the development has faced in the past year. “The last time part of the building crashed luckily no one was killed but we were told to carry on working,” said a worker.

He added, when the workers work on upper levels of the development, it is more risky and the scaffolding and beams are not steady. “We try to tell the site managers it is not safe but they shout at us and tell us to get back to work or go home. We cannot leave the job because we have families to feed.”

The workers claim they have no benefits or insurance and are paid a minimum wage to work long and exhausting hours.

“If I am hurt while working, who will pay my medical costs or if I die, who will provide for my family?”

According to Corn√© Vermaak, managing director of Pre-Form, a subcontractor of GD Irons Construction company, “We are in fact registered and are up to date with the Workman’s Compensation Act (WCA), contrary to claims made by the construction workers on site”.

The Act is also known as the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida) and aims to provide compensation to a worker in terms of medical expenses, wages, disability payment and a death benefit to the worker’s next of kin and also covers workers who are injured on duty.

Pretoria East hospital spokesperson, Ronel Leyds, confirmed that the several workers who were treated for injuries at the hospital after the most recent collapse had their medical bills settled by the developers, who are registered with the WCA.

“It is normal practice on construction sites for the main contractors to monitor registration compliance as well as undergo health and safety audits, which the department of health and safety regularly perform.”

“It is also likely that many workers do not know about the Act, which is why they claim they are not covered.”

When asked about the WCA, the workers claimed they did not know anything about the Act or what they are covered for.

Source: The Record
By: Samona Murugan

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