Cosatu calls on government to help workers sinking in debt

Cosatu and its affiliates members march to the Gauteng legislature in Johannesburg, 13 February 2019, on a one-day nationwide strike against job losses and Eskom restructuring. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The trade union says this was caused by ‘reckless’ lending and high-interest rates by the banks and the Reserve Bank.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to move the country to lockdown alert level one, saying it will help further reopen the economy.

However, the trade union said it was concerned about “the rush to prematurely limit” various health and safety measures.

“We also remain concerned that many employers and health institutions are failing to provide workers with adequate personal Protective Equipment and ensure the safety of their workers.

“It is critical for all South Africans to continue abide by the relevant health and safety measures e.g. wearing of masks, washing of hands, social distancing etc. We cannot afford to be complacent,” national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said in a statement.

While the union further welcomed the limited reopening of international border, it was “critical” for government and the banks to provide “real” and urgent economic relief for the tourism sector.

According to Cosatu, the president should have announced additional measures to address the massive delays in distributing social grants by Sassa.

“We note the progress being made to put together a comprehensive economic recovery plan, by social partners at Nedlac, to kickstart the economy. This will hopefully include a massive injection of new money into the economy and dedicated sectoral support for the most heavily battered parts of the economy.

“Cosatu remains in support of strong intervention by the state in the economy and will continue to reject the overreliance on the market economy. This view has been powerfully validated and reinforced by the latest statistics that show that the economy has declined by 51% in the second quarter. The current economic crisis is a direct result of the government’s embrace of market fundamentalism.

The current economic trends have unleashed very harsh conditions especially for the working class and the poor. We expect the government’s measures for economic reopening and support to adopt a job-intensive approach, backed by stronger employment policies. Public and private sector co-ordination on stimulus packages and debt relief measures is critical in delivering an effective and sustainable recovery,” said Cosatu.

It further demanded an aggressive intervention by the government to help workers and consumers sinking in debt, caused by “reckless” lending and high-interest rates by the banks and the Reserve Bank.

“The issue of debt was already an albatross that was weighing this country’s economy down even before the outbreak of Covid-19. The government cannot solve the country’s economic problems without addressing the problem of personal debt.”

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