COSATU notes the two-week extension of the Covid-19 national shutdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa tonight. The federation understands that government is navigating a minefield and needs to do everything to stop the spread of the virus and to protect the lives of all South Africans.
It is important though for government and employers to understand the massive burden the shutdown and its extension is having on workers and poor families.
Thousands have been retrenched by employers with no sense of decency or humanity. Hundreds of thousands have been placed on unpaid leave by employers, who don’t have the financial reserves to pay them during this shutdown.
If government and business fail to show the necessary leadership, we will walk straight into a devastating economic depression.
We are pleased that the Reserve Bank is slowly comprehending the enormity of the crisis and is slowly coming to the party. We still expect it to be more decisive. The allocation of R40 billion by the Unemployment Insurance Fund to support workers who are retrenched or on unpaid leave is welcomed but it is not enough.
The Federation reiterates it position that the Minister of Labour needs to compel employers to take the responsibility of filing for UIF benefits on behalf of their employees, who are losing income as a result of the lockdown. Employers cannot be allowed to continue to issue blank UIF application forms to workers, therefore, forcing them to individually apply for the UIF benefits themselves.
Currently, the economy is functioning at 20% capacity and the workforce at 15% capacity and we need to explore safe and responsible ways of increasing this without undermining the lockdown and its objectives. We shall continue to engage with social partners to explore ways of gradually opening the economy up and ensuring that we develop safe protocols to protect workers from the virus.
The federation remains a constructive partner in helping the nation survive this calamity. All social partners need to be ready to compromise and sacrifice in the spirit of solidarity.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794