The news that the UIF/TERS scheme will be extended to March 15, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation Address on 11 February, has been welcomed by both FEDHASA and SATSA.
President Ramaphosa announced: “We have also decided to extend the Covid-19 TERS benefit until 15 March 2021 only for those that have not been able to operate. The conditions of this extension and the sectors to be included will be announced after consultations with social partners at (NEDLAC) National Economic Development and Labour Council.”
No hospitality business left unscathed
“The hospitality industry, in particular, has been amongst the sectors hardest hit by lockdown measures with no business left unscathed, from the large group brands all the way down to a modest tavern or small coffee shop. Many have been unable to reopen, despite the easing of certain regulations in recent days, specifically due to the absence of international and corporate travel, as well as restrictions on operating hours and limits on customer capacity,” says FEDHASA Chairperson, Rosemary Anderson.
In a recent survey of over 200 FEDHASA members, projections from the industry, both accommodation and food and beverage businesses, showed an anticipated revenue decline of, on average, 72% when comparing February, March and April 2021 with the same period in 2019. Almost all respondents (95%) cited salaries as their biggest cost concern, indicating the dire need for the relief offered by the UIF TERS scheme.
FEDHASA continues to collaborate and lobby with Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), which has been calling for the reintroduction of UIF TERS, as well as recognition of hospitality staff as frontline workers who should be considered early on in the roll-out of the country’s vaccination programme.
“We also welcome the update from the President that a great deal is happening behind the scenes to secure and fast-track the administering of vaccines, as we know that real relief for our sector will only come once the pandemic is under control and the majority of the population has been vaccinated. We look forward to more detail on this in the coming weeks as the reality is that a third wave and further restrictions would be the final nail in the coffin for many hospitality businesses,” concludes Anderson.
Ban on SA Travel has resulted in unworkable trading environment
“We are hopeful that NEDLAC, following multiple engagements with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), is aware of the plight of our industry and the need for relief in order to retain jobs, and that this will result in tourism being included in the list of sectors the UIF/TERS extension will apply to,” says David Frost, CEO of SATSA. “We eagerly await clarity on the conditions and deadlines that will apply and urge government not to delay in communicating this to the public.”
As the umbrella organisation representing the voice of business for the travel and tourism sector, the TBCSA, of which SATSA is a core association member, has been lobbying for the reinstation of the UIF’s Covid-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme since it came to an end in mid-October 2020. This despite the reintroduction Level 3 lockdown measures that saw the closure of beaches and ban on alcohol, which had a devastating impact on the tourism industry that had been looking towards the festive season as a lifeline.
“Despite the reopening of international borders, the ban on SA travel by several countries around the world, has resulted in an unworkable trading environment for local tourism businesses, with many being forced to close doors. The reality is that until we see the evidence of an expedited vaccination programme in South Africa, tourism businesses will continue to struggle – and be reliant on relief measures such as UIF/TERS to keep staff on the payroll,” concludes Frost.