People queue from 4am to sort out their UIF

Cape Town labour centre serves 600 people a day. Many of them keep having to return

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Hundreds of people queue outside the labour centre in Cape Town every day. Photo: Liezl Human

  • The Cape Town labour centre serves about 600 people a day.
  • People queue from as early as 4am to get served the same day.
  • Many of the people in the queue have been there numerous times to try and sort out their UIF payments.

People start queuing from 4am outside the labour centre on Parade Street in Cape Town. Many who arrive later won’t get served, and many will have to return and queue again, perhaps several times, before their issue is resolved. Some sit on chairs outside, which they rent for R5 an hour. The office opens at 7:30am and closes its doors at 4pm.

Most of the people we spoke to last week were there because they had issues related to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). Charlene Adiasu said she was there for the fifth time to try to register her UIF claim. It was the first time she had got inside the building, she said.

The earliest she can get to the centre is about 7:30am, getting up at 5am and travelling from Blue Downs. She is an unemployed mother with six children, and has been borrowing money to travel to the labour centre.

She is now awaiting a notification that her UIF payment has been approved and then she must return again. “I’m still so worried,” she said.

Anne-Marie Africa, who was also in the queue trying to get her UIF money, said she used public transport to travel from Retreat and arrived at about 9am. She gave up on being served that day and went home at 3pm. “I’m going to go again next week,” she said.

UIF applications can be done online, but not everyone has internet or computer access or can navigate the system. Adiasu said she didn’t understand the process of registering online, while Africa did not know there was an online option.

Once a person has registered at the office, the department is supposed to send them an SMS about whether their claim has been approved or rejected. If accepted, they can collect and sign for the payment at the office. If rejected, they can appeal.

John Sterianos, who had been to the labour centre three times in the past few weeks about his UIF, said you had better queue from very early in the morning if you hoped to be served. He also didn’t know he could apply online.

On his first trip, he was told he didn’t have the correct forms. On his second trip, he queued from 4am and made his application. He then received an SMS saying his application was rejected. He emailed the office, but received no response. On his third trip he again queued from 4am. He was told there had been an error and his claim was still being processed. He will return to the labour centre in March.

Sterianos said there are people who arrive very early in the morning and then sell their places for R50. Other people pay people to hold places for them.

Charleen Abrahams arrived at 6am. She was only served at 4pm. “I don’t know why it is so slow. It’s not fair to the people,” she said. And she will have to return when she gets an SMS approving her UIF payment.

The labour centre serves on average about 600 people per day, according Mawele Ntamo, the Department of Employment and Labour’s chief director of provincial operations in the Western Cape.

The department is working on the issue of long queues and waiting times by promoting online services, he said. People who do not have internet access are assisted at the centre to make online applications.

There are 12 labour offices in the Western Cape, and seven satellite offices.

Correction on 2023-02-22 09:45

The following sentence: "He was told there had been an error and he had to register again" was corrected to read: "He was told there had been an error and his claim was still being processed."

TOPICS:  Government Labour Unemployment

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