22 February 2018

South Africa: Cosatu's Response to SONA

press release

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted and broadly welcomes the State of the Nation Address presented by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday evening, 16 February 2018. We now look forward to seeing further details on this vision in the budget and departmental plans.

a) On creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods.

We are pleased that the SONA focused on the economy and we welcome the commitment to reindustrialise, boost manufacturing, grow exports, skill workers and create jobs for the millions of unemployed. We applaud the commitments to hold the long promised jobs and investment summits and the inclusion of labour in government's economic teams.

Since 2016, we have been urging government to convene a Job Summit and we welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to commit to the convening of this summit at last. Job creation should remain the number one priority of government and we believe the Job Summit will allow us to reconcile our competing claims as social partners and develop a Jobs plan.

Going forward ,we therefore expect the Minister of Finance to announce a radical shift in the government's and Reserve Bank's previously conservative fiscal and monetary policy, to bring it in line with ANC policy to promote manufacturing industry and job creation, rather than its rigid obsession with inflation-targeting.

We also did not hear our government clarifying its plans to strengthen the labour laws ,so that workers are better protected from exploitation, poverty pay, unfair dismissal, and are able to work in a safe and healthy environment.

We are not happy that the president has also not given a clear commitment on what the government is going to do to put an end to the accelerating casualisation of employment, which is leading to thousands of relatively well-paid and secure jobs being replaced by low-paid, insecure jobs, with little or no benefits.

We are also not happy that government continues to ignore the matter of human-trafficking of workers in the form of labour broking, and all other forms of super-exploitation, which have no role to play in a decent-work economy, we want them totally banned.

We still reject the idea of a youth employment subsidy that has benefited employers and that has also further eroded wages and working conditions and also resulted in mass retrenchments of workers once they have reached the age limit for the subsidy.

b) On health care

We welcome the assurance by the President that the government's National Health Insurance scheme is on track and that we remain committed to universal healthcare. We are troubled though by the silence from government on tackling the deplorable levels of service throughout our public health service and in particular the lack of an assurance that all vacant posts be filled as quickly as possible. The ongoing austerity measures by government will have an impact on service delivery.

c) Rural development, food security and land reform

We welcome the President's commitment to the implementation of the ANC Policy of Expropriation without compensation without compromising food security or the economy.COSATU demands that this policy should prioritise farm workers. All farm workers need to be given title deeds so that they can have access to government services like housing, health, electricity and schooling. We also want these workers to have land to bury their loved ones with dignity and peace and not be evicted and harassed by their racist and exploitative employers.

The policy should also be accompanied by training and government support in order to assist the new farm owners to use their land productively, in order to expand employment and produce food. The struggle was about the land and we demand our land back.

d) The fight against crime and corruption

COSATU welcomes the government's commitment to fight crime and the stabilisation of the institutions like the NPA and the commitment to fight against corruption. This is in line with ANC policy to "ensure efficient functioning of all anti-corruption structures and systems including whistle-blowing, blacklisting of corrupt companies, implementation of laws to ensure exposure of, and action against, private sector corruption, and quicker processes to deal with any corrupt civil servants and public officials".

The president needs to ensure that law enforcement agencies lead the fight to rid the country of the cancer of corruption, price-fixing and tender abuse,

We are comforted by the President's reassurance that we are not going to drop our guard in the battle against crime and corruption but we need to see more action.

e) On SOE's and government

We applaud the commitments to clean up the chaos and looting at our SOEs and the need to ensure their financial sustainability.

We believe this can be done without privatisation. We commend the commitments to overhaul the SOE leadership and put anti corruption measures in place. The President's intervention and commitment to fix the mess at Sassa is a breath of fresh air. We also welcome the plan to restructure the bloated cabinet but we do not expect worker's jobs to be compromised

We are not happy though that very little was said to about fixing our transport and energy crises. We look forward to a Cabinet reshuffle that will help give government its badly needed facelift by firing all those corrupted and incorrigible ministers who have contributed to the looting and collapse of the state over the years.

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