WORKERS CONVERSATIONS (CoranaVirus and The Working Class)

SAFTU Social Media Launch

In this extraordinary moment of the Corona virus outbreak, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) stands in solidarity with all families who lost their loved ones to covid-19 and those who tested covid-19 positive. The pandemic has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands around the world. In South Africa, like other parts of the world, the infection and death rate increase daily. The outbreak occurs at a time when South African economy is underperforming and has been consistently shedding jobs.
Our government declared a national disaster, thus imposing a lockdown that limits both movement and economic activity. Like in other countries, the lockdown has resulted in deep economic depression. Different sectors were shut down and many workers could not go to work, for many resulting in no income.

The Department of Employment and Labour introduced financial support measures to assist business and employees to deal better with the financial losses caused directly by covid-19. SASSA introduced a financial benefit for unemployed persons and increased social grants but are these measures enough and do they reach the intended recipient?
On the other hand we have seen how private companies took advantage and launched a targeted attack on workers. Employers have reduced worker salaries and retrenched workers without following proper procedures. Workers have been forced to work without the appropriate protective gear and in some cases non-essential workers have been forced to go to work at the high risk of contracting the coronavirus.

SAFTU Response is based on noting the following:
1.     Government has not taken into consideration the reality of the working class, the race and age of affected people when implementing the lockdown and introducing the social distance regulations. The government was also ignorant to the fact that service delivery to the majority of South African is poor and dismal in some areas. There is the housing crisis and a big number of the black community are cramped in squatter camps where they use public toilets and communal taps. Keeping social distance under these circumstances is difficult just as is the case for those staying in RDP houses.
2.     The neo-liberal ANC-led government made it clear that protecting big business is a priority and will use public money to subsidize private companies.  These businesses have amassed huge profits by exploiting and underpaying workers to build the huge financial reserves. During this crisis these reserves remain untouched while workers, whose sweat actively generated such profits, remain at the coalface of deepening poverty, widening inequality and rising unemployment.
3.     The introduction of these financial aid schemes, given our government’s weak monitoring systems, is likely to be another opportunity for white collar crime.
4.     Government has paid very little attention to the informal sector which constitute about 10million workers.
5.     During the lockdown we have witnessed racialized police and military brutality directed towards the working class. This brutality is indicative of the remnants of the apartheid style training they receive.

As the federation and voice of the working class, we call on workers to defend worker unity and never allow to be weakened by this neo-liberal onslaught. We confront a reality where trade unions can no longer organize workers like we have always done.
Workers can no longer hold meetings, conduct leader development programs like before and take to the streets in numbers.  The employers continue to disregard collective bargaining. It is thus imperative that alternative ways of organizing must be sought to target even those workers that are not organized.

In the interest of keeping our workers informed and engaged, yesterday SAFTU launched a programme called WorkersConversations. Its a series of webinars, fb live streaming sessions, WhatsApp notices, twitter and others in an attempt to reach workers far and wide.
We will dig deeper into the topics affecting workers.

To learn more about the initiative follow us on Facebook: SAFTU and twitter @SAFTU_media

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