COSATU Statement on International Children’s Day – 1st June 2020

Promote the Rights and Wellbeing of a child: Balance Work, Life and Family amid COVID-19 & Beyond

COSATU join hands with other global organisations for Children Rights on this important Day. This day comes at a very difficult time when the whole world is challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Federation is deeply concerned that many employers are failing to comply with the guidelines to protect workers and therefore exposing the parents and their children to Covid-19

We fully stand with all essential workers fighting for health and safety.  We support teachers and their unions, who are refusing to be exposed to unsafe working conditions and fighting to protect learners from returning to school without adequate protective measures in place. 

During May, South Africa registered the first infant death due to Covid-19.  We have a massive challenge to address the already unacceptably high infant mortality rate in our country.  We have to do everything to avoid deaths due to Covid-19, this requires access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for workers, and safe workplace procedures and environments.   

COSATU reiterates its long-standing call for the Ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) C183 and Recommendation 191 on Maternity Protection. Safe maternity is at the core of life itself, for mothers, infants, and communities.  Maternity protection is critical for working women, whether they are engaged in active participation in labour markets, in unpaid work at home, or various forms of precarious or self-employed work. The importance of balancing maternity and family responsibilities with paid work is a societal responsibility.  This requires the support of the state and employers.

This year the International children day is observed on the 1st day of the Lockdown Level 3 of the COVID-19, when many workers are returning to work, with children left at home to fend for themselves.  In Nelson Mandela’s words, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

The International Children’s Day started when representatives from different countries convened the first “World Conference for the Wellbeing of Children” in 1925 and recommended for governments to observe the day to promote initiatives that support children’s wellbeing in the world. The day was then mostly observed by the socialist countries. The International Women’s Democratic Federation met in 1949 and resolved on the 1st June for women’s organisations to highlight the plight of children and promote the welfare of children.

In South Africa 31st May – 7th June is Child Protection Week, this year it is observed under the theme: “Let us all protect children During COVID-19 and Beyond”.  COSATU calls for the rights of children to be honoured, this means that all children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, free from violence and abuse.  We demand justice for child victims of sexual abuse, assault, and murder.  We call for justice for Andile Bobo Mbuthu, a 16-year-old boy who was brutally murdered by a mob in Tongaat after being accused of stealing.

COSATU 6th National Congress resolved to develop and campaign for the implementation and upgrading of parental rights agreements in all workplaces, including paid maternity leave, childcare leave, and childcare facilities.  These issues must remain part of the collective bargaining demands. COSATU has declared 1st June as the day to highlight workers’ demand on subsidised childcare facilities in the workplace, industrial areas, and in the communities, as working parents worry constantly about the safety and security of their children.

Working parents amid COVID-19

COVID-19 and the Lockdown period has demonstrated challenges faced by workers, especially essential workers, who had to shelter their families from harm whilst at the same time continuing with their work responsibilities, without support from family members, employers, and the state. COSATU believes that it is essential for the workplace and institutions to provide proper support to employees, including family-friendly workplace policies, practices, and childcare facilities to minimise vulnerability to children.

The convention on the right of a child stipulates that “States parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities for which they are eligible”. Therefore, it is about time that the state and employers ensure the implementation of this convention.

Therefore, COSATU calls on its all trade unions and structures from the local, provincial, and national to embark on the following: –

·         Engage employers to ensure that the pregnant women workers are protected and given preference during this crisis of COVID-19.

·         Ensure that all workers, especially those at the greatest risk, such as nurses and retail workers, are properly protected against the spread of COVID-19

·         Continue to fight against school re-opening as long as schools are not ready to receive the students and teachers without exposing them to the spread of the virus.

·         Government to ensure that it starts now to assist the Early Childhood Development centres to disinfect and sanitise to be ready to receive children when it is time to open, with a great focus given to township facilities.

·         Revitalise the campaign to demand subsidised Workplace, industrial, farm communities, and mining communities’ childcare facilities to enable working parents to drop their children on their way to work.

·         Provision of breastfeeding facilities for breastfeeding mothers

·         Work with local authorities in their areas to do an assessment in the farm communities, ensure that the children of farm workers are not left behind

·         States and territories must develop childcare- specific COVID-19 guidance to share with their care programs and families

·         Let us build on advances and re-commit to putting children first.

Issued by COSATU
 Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794