COSATU statement on the impact of COVID-19 Virus in South Africa

COSATU held a Central Executive Committee workshop to discuss a number of pertinent issues for the federation to respond to and one such issue was the COVID-19 virus and the impact that it will have on workers in general. Workers in the health sector and the various ports of entry are fearful for their health and safety at work and remain uncertain of whether current occupational health and safety legislation cover the COVID-19 virus and what their labour rights are if they were to contract the virus.

The COVID-19 virus presents a number of challenges for workers particularly in the private sector, who unlike public sector employees, are subjected to strict principles of no work no pay. Fearing financial hardship, workers might not easily cooperate with the prospect of forgoing wages to receive medical attention which may exacerbate the spread of the virus.

The Federation recognises that awareness remains our best strategy in the fight against the virus, as such COSATU will develop a program that will focus on the education of our members through training programs for shop stewards and social media campaigns. COSATU urges all affiliates to engage shop stewards through social media platforms, branch meetings and workplaces blitzes to enhance the awareness among members. 

The Department of Health has an obligation to the citizens to enhance education on the virus in all eleven official languages and to provide sanitizers for the poorest communities, who till today lack proper access to water and sanitation. Educators must also be prioritized in the awareness campaign by the Department so that teachers can include the coronavirus education and prevention in schools.

The COVID-19 virus will have an impact on us all as a result COSATU has called for a NEDLAC meeting at the level of EXCO to discuss the role each constituency in NEDLAC has to play in stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The meeting must resolve on a clear program of action to ensure workers and communities remain healthy and steps are taken to prop our ailing economy in the face of recession and the outbreak of coronavirus. The National Treasury needs to analyse the economic impact that the COVID-19 virus will have on our economy, so that social partners can debate the necessary intervention to be taken to mitigate its effects.  The Meeting must also engage the UIF to see how best to provide safety nets to workers who must undergo quarantine and are unable to work for up to 14 days.   

At a federation level, COSATU will convene an urgent Health committee meeting to develop a program for union leadership and structures to safeguard workers from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

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