Organised Labour at NEDLAC, represented by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) and the National Congress of Trade Unions (NACTU), is extremely disappointed by the CCMA’s upholding the dismissal of a worker who had refused to vaccinate.
Organised Labour believes that dismissals of any worker must be avoided at all costs. Workers have families that they are responsible for. We have an unemployment rate of 46% that is rising daily. Sending any worker into the unemployment queue is to condemn their families to poverty.
Organised Labour supports the vaccine rollout programme. Unions in all three Federations have worked across their sectors to educate and persuade their members, workers, and their families on why vaccinating is safe and the most effective way to save lives and livelihoods. Organised Labour believes that education and addressing the fears of workers and society is the best way to persuade people to vaccinate.
Threatening workers with dismissal will only serve to poison what has already become a very charged and divided debate across the world.
Vaccinations cannot be the sole responsibility of workers. Only 14 million out of South Africa’s 60 million people are employed. If we are to achieve the 70% vaccination levels, then this must be a society-wide approach and not one that is simply dumped upon workers. This has the unnecessary effect of raising workplace tensions and thus undermining labour market stability.
The Federations hope the worker in the case ruled upon by the CCMA will exercise her right to take the ruling on review. The Federations and their Affiliates will be engaging their structures, members, and employers at their workplaces on why it is important for as many people as possible to vaccinate. We will seek to address the concerns of those who are hesitant to vaccinate and to resolve tensions and disputes with employers and affected workers. Unions will assist any worker threatened with disciplinary action, including dismissal.
The most effective way to address these matters is for all workplaces to abide by the Ministerial Directive on workplace vaccinations. It requires employers to undertake a needs-based assessment of their workplaces and to engage with workers and unions on their vaccination policies. This includes providing reasonable accommodation for those who have not been vaccinated and may include exemptions for medical, religious, or constitutional reasons. It also includes allowing affected workers to work remotely or from alternative sites in their workplaces.
South Africa is a constitutional democracy. This requires dialogue to resolve complex and sensitive matters. Dismissing workers who have fears will only serve to polarise a very toxic debate and in fact, feed into the hands of the anti-vaxxers. This is a distraction that we simply cannot afford when we should all be working together to encourage people to vaccinate, to save lives and livelihoods.
Issued by COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU.
For further information please contact:
Bheki Ntshalintshali – COSATU General Secretary 082 5636973
Riefdah Ajam – FEDUSA General Secretary 079 696 2625
Narius Moloto- NACTU General Secretary 082 924 5945