COSATU statement commemorating the 44th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising of 1976 (Youth Day)

The Congress of South African Trade Unions join millions of South Africans to commemorate the 44th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising of 1976 (Youth Day).This is an important day in our calendar that we need to commemorate because it reminds us of where we come from and the sacrifices that gave us this freedom.

This historical event shocked South Africa and the world but it also started a new chapter in the history of South Africa. This day reminds out of the bitter history of this country that is dominated by colonialism, apartheid, racism, sexism and repressive labour policies.

But this painful history should also inspire us to build a united country with an economy that will help us eliminate poverty, low wages, and extreme inequalities.

This year’s Youth Day finds the country in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis. South Africa was already struggling with severe unemployment prior to the lockdown and young people are the most affected. This Youth Day should be used as an opportunity to reflect and explore solutions that will help us fix these problems that have been heightened by the lockdown and the pandemic.

The Federation would like to see the government helping the significant number of young workers who enter the labour market with an albatross of historical debt largely acquired through student loans around their necks. About 41% of these young people who have graduated are sitting at home and watching their dreams passing them by because of unemployment and indebtedness.

It is about time that commercial banks, government, and institutions of higher learning need review and consider the cancellation of academic loans for new workers entering the labour market and all those who are sitting at home.

We also want to see the assessment and the modification of the Youth Employment Scheme (YES), Employment Tax Incentive Scheme ( Youth Wage Subsidy )that have both failed to deliver the required results in terms of youth unemployment alleviation. The YES programme is now about two years old and the ETI is almost eight years old but unemployment figures for young people have not changed for the better.

We need a report on the funds allocated/ tax relief schemes for companies versus the number of employment and learning opportunities created for young workers.

We have always had a problem with these subsidies as they have been abused and not used to promote real full employment

Most Private Sector companies are receiving these subsidies our concern in the Covid-19 context is that they will continue to receive these subsidies without having young people in the workplace.

These young people are also at a higher risk of being retrenched from their jobs during the economic upheaval. The Federation also wants companies and government departments to absorb young workers upon completion of work readiness programmes, this would be in line with the youth employment accord signed at NEDLAC.

Another major issue is sexual exploitation in the workplace that is still a reality for young women workers, this is despite the ratification of the relevant ILO convention on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Young women workers are particularly susceptible to sexual exploitation as in instances where a potential employer demands sexual favours in return for a job opportunity that is so often desperately needed.

Drastic measures need to be taken to sort out sexual exploitation and gender-based violence.

We also demand the lowering of the cost of data to study, work remotely, socialize and organise. Currently, the cost of data remains exorbitant and unaffordable.

The HIV pandemic is still a reality in South Africa, and it affects mostly young workers. We need intensification of the battle against HIV and Aids.

As we commemorate this important day, we reiterate our call for employers to fully canvass possible alternatives to job losses. They need to take responsibility for the social costs associated with the dismissals of workers, especially young workers, who end up depending on the government for everything.

We also, encourage young workers to organize themselves and take responsibility in shaping a new normal and a new economy that will take this country to a new direction.

 Happy Youth Day!

We will never forget!

Issued by COSATU



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