Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi says that government, business and organised labour have agreed that each must take responsibility for the wellbeing of workers, as the economy is set to further open up. This follows Friday’s meeting of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC).

President Cyril Ramaphosa will meet various stakeholders over the next two weeks to discuss preparations to move parts of the country to the less-stricter Level 3.

Losi says social partners have agreed to regular screening and testing at the workplace, as well as the provision of personal protective equipment and social distancing measures.

“We are calling on employers also and we are calling for employers there and they have agreed in principle that every employer must provide safe transport for their employees. We are always saying workers cannot always be a minus in a balance sheet of a company. When the company seeks a relief from government you include workers but when you must go to the actual production workers become a liability to you and therefore, you minimise your costs in terms of minimising their safety,” says Losi.

Nedlac virtual meeting 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated that the progression to Level 3 of the national lockdown must be accompanied by the crucial, non-negotiable and practical interventions in the country’s coronavirus prevention toolbox.

He co-chaired a virtual meeting of  Nedlac constituencies on Friday to assess preparations for the step-down from Level 4 to Level 3.

This was the first in a series of consultations between government and social partners as well as specific sectors of civil society.

Government, labour, business and the community sector are undertaking detailed work to ensure that lives will be saved and livelihoods will be protected as the economy is progressively unlocked amid COVID-19 as an ever-present danger.

The President says he is optimistic that the co-operation of various sectors could deliver an advance to Level 3 even before the end of May 2020.

Moving to Level 3

In his address to the nation on Wednesday, the President indicated that the country could implement Level 3 before the end of the month. However, he said some badly affected areas may still require stricter levels of lockdown.

Ramaphosa also acknowledged the heavy toll that the coronavirus lockdown is having on the lives of ordinary South Africans, emphasising that the lockdown was necessary to prevent an even larger number of infections and deaths.

Reopening the economy

Economist Dawie Roodt says the government should rapidly reprioritise the reopening of the economy as unemployment and poverty could cause more damage to the country than the coronavirus pandemic.

He says the National Coronavirus Command Council, which is the government’s main decision-making body regarding COVID-19, is not acting in the best interest of the people.

Roodt says, “We are totally mismanaging the economy at the moment. I’ve done some calculations and I’m pretty sure that more people will die because of poverty than people that will die because of this virus. What we are currently doing we are putting the economy into lockdown, it will increase poverty, it will increase unemployment and the sooner we open up this economy the better. We have certain ministers that, all of a sudden, have got a lot of power and they simply do not want to let go.”

Infographic: Level 3 lockdown: