COSATU statement on the Cabinet’s additional measures to combat Covid-19

 The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) notes the President’s announcement of an extension of alert level 3 restrictions and the introduction of additional measures to stem the flood of persons crossing the land borders to combat Covid-19. 

 The Federation welcomes the President’s to fill critical vacant health posts.  This is fundamental to easing the unbearable burden health workers are facing as large numbers are becoming infected.  More details on when and how many posts will be filled are needed.

 We call on the government to do more to enforce these restrictions so that we can all go back to normality. Those who continue to be defiant must face the consequences.

 We recognise the need for the extension of the ban on alcohol, for now, to ease pressure on hospital emergency rooms, however, a more sustainable long-term solution is needed to address the corrosive effect of alcohol abuse while saving jobs.

 We need to begin a dialogue involving all stakeholders because slogans and short cuts are not enough.

 It is worrying that the Department of Basic Education has not come with a plan to ensure the safe reopening of schools. We await the announcement by the government on this issue in the coming days. Not only must teachers be prioritised for vaccinations, but a comprehensive health and safety plan put in place to ensure minimal disruptions to the school year.

 The tentative progress in securing vaccine orders appears positive.  However, a comprehensive vaccine plan should have been put in place by last December.  We will only be convinced when we see the vaccines being delivered, transported, and dispensed.  This needs to happen as a matter of the highest urgency.  Every day lost in rolling out the vaccines sees hundreds of unnecessary deaths.  We cannot afford complacency because there is a lot at stake.

 COSATU is deeply disappointed though by the complete absence of any economic or social relief measures for hundreds of thousands of workers and businesses who under the disaster management regulations are not allowed to work.  These include workers over 60 years of age or with co-morbidities as well as workers from businesses under partial restrictions.

 This is callous and needs to be rectified immediately. The federation will be seeking an urgent meeting with the government to ensure that a comprehensive economic and social relief package is put in place for distressed workers and businesses.  It must include the following key components:

  • Extension of the UIF’s Covid-19 TERS for workers and workplaces that remain under various levels of restrictions. 
  • Extension of the R350 unemployment grant. 
  • Providing direct financial relief for battered sectors of the economy. 
  • Providing tax relief for distressed workers and workplaces. 
  • Revamping the underutilised Loan Guarantee Scheme. 
  • Providing debt relief for struggling consumers and businesses.  
  • The Reserve Bank slashing the repo rate by at least 50 basis points at its meeting on the 21st of January.

The government needs to realise that the Covid-19 pandemic is not only a health tragedy but also an economic one and therefore must be fought on both fronts.  Lives and livelihoods must be saved in equal measure. 

 Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911

Fax: 011 339 5080 Cell: 060 975 6794