COSATU notes the statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing the gradual and conditional easing of the lockdown regulations starting on the 1st of May 2020. We support this move by the President because it speaks to what we have been calling for as the Federation.
Currently, the economy is functioning at 20% capacity and only 15% .of the workforce is working. The decision by the National Coronavirus Command Council to gradually ease the lockdown regulations and decentralize the decision making is a welcome move.
We need to balance both the health and also our socio-economic needs. The Covid-19 virus will not magically disappear, and it may take time to get an accessible and reliable vaccine. We do not have the financial muscle to afford a long term shut down of our economy, as a country.
COSATU insists that workplaces that want to open must fulfil health and safety conditions and conduct a risk assessment of the workplace before reopening of the workplace. This must be negotiated with and agreed to by workers and unions in workplaces.
Any sector or workplace must have a signed health and safety agreement. Employers must be legally held to this by department of employment and labour,
The agreement must include safe transport, the provision of PPEs and sanitizers, social distancing at the workplace, regular testing, and screening at the workplace, as well as other measures that can reduce the number of people on duty per shift through staff rotations, where possible.
The announced alert categories and the decentralisation of decision making will ensure that lowly affected and infected communities will be allowed to operate at a lowered level, especially small towns, and rural areas.
The Federation calls on the Minister of Employment and Labour to ensure that the number of labour inspectors is increased to deal with these new conditions that will have to be adopted by various workplaces. Employers must put in place resources to enable as many workers as possible to work from home with the requisite tools of trade.
The assistance to businesses should be accompanied by a moratorium on retrenchmentsEmployers must cease retrenching workers when there are available options available to assist businesses. Instead, they must apply for the UIF Covid-19 relief fund to avoid retrenching workers or sending them on unpaid leave.
The President indicated further details will be provided by the relevant Ministers. The Federation will be monitoring these and engaging upon their implementation with government and business at Nedlac.
Of particular concern is ensuring that learners and students can resume studies as soon as safely possible. COSATU will be engaging the departments of basic and higher education to work on a plan to gradually phase in the 2020 academic program
Lastly, government and employers need to ramp up mass screening and testing otherwise we will struggle to move to level 3.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794