The Presidency yesterday said the government and organised labour had agreed to work much more closely to address the immediate challenges that confront South Africa’s economy.
This comes after leaders of organised labour raised a number of issues facing the working class, particularly to poor South Africans, on the back of weak economic growth, high unemployment rate and the rising cost of living.
In a virtual meeting with the government yesterday, representatives from organised labour raised concerns about the current fiscal situation, the structure of the economy, state-owned enterprises, strengthening the public services, tackling crime and corruption, local government and providing economic and social relief.
The meeting discussed the immediate measures needed to unblock economic growth and create employment, and participants agreed that urgent steps must be taken to deal with low growth and the unemployment crisis.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said this agreement was critical to accelerate efforts to deliver lasting and sustainable progress in building an inclusive economy, creating jobs and tackling poverty and inequality.
Ramaphosa said organised labour committed to working with the government to end load shedding and achieve energy security, improve the efficiency of the freight logistics system and reduce violent crime and protect economic infrastructure.
“Given the scale of the challenge, we require support from all social partners to urgently accelerate implementation of the government’s plans and drive additional interventions,” Ramaphosa said.
“While there is encouraging progress, the energy shortfall remains the single biggest constraint on economic growth. We need to accelerate and expand our efforts even further, not only to overcome the immediate crisis, but to fundamentally reform our energy sector and ensure that we never face such a shortfall again.”
Organised labour was represented by union federations Cosatu, Fedusa, Nactu and Saftu.
Organised labour overall convenor Gerald Twala said they welcomed the engagement, and hoped it would be the beginning of further discussions on various measures to grow the economy, create jobs, rebuild the state and tackle crime and corruption.
“Labour is deeply concerned about the variety of crises affecting our State Owned Enterprises, municipalities, government, the economy and workers,” Twala said.
“They require decisive action to resolve them. It is critical these interventions are directed towards the fundamental causes of our many challenges and that they uplift the poor and protect the hard-won rights of workers. Measures must capacitate the state to deliver quality public services, unlock economic growth and set the nation on a sustainable path.”
Meanwhile, Cosatu yesterday reiterated its dismay at National Treasury’s proposals for severe budget cuts across government as it prepares to table the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement.
The federation said it was shocked that Treasury had tabled proposals to close various departments and key government programmes, reduce the public service headcount by 200 000 and raise VAT by 2%, in addition to freezing vacancies and suspending infrastructure investments.
“Whilst we appreciate the real fiscal constraints facing the state and the need to cut fat and reprioritise expenditure, the suggestions offered by Treasury of slashing expenditure and further decapacitating the state when the economy is in desperate need of stimulus and a well-oiled and capacitated public services, will only serve to choke the economy and further weaken an already enfeebled government,” said Cosatu acting spokesperson, Matthew Parks.
“If the government wants to cut wasteful expenditure, then it needs to reverse the offensive increases it has given to Members of Parliament and the Legislatures earlier this year and just two weeks ago to Councillors.
“Cabinet can abandon the litany of perks it feels entitled to. Government should slash the number of Ministers from 28 to 20 and Deputy Ministers from 34 to 5 as well as the 10 000 Councillors loitering about dysfunctional municipalities.”