cosatuBusinessLive reports that as SA tries to curb the spread of the coronavirus, organised labour is divided over whether the country should go into lockdown.  

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week declared a national state of disaster.  A wide range of measures have been put in place to curb the spread, including restricting gatherings of over 100 people and travel bans.  Bheki Ntshalishali of labour federation Cosatu, however does not believe a total lockdown will work in SA.  He said there needed to be food security and essential services needed to continue working.  Ntshalishali called rather for more discipline and stricter measures as in fewer people working, rotational working and screening of all workers.  On the threat by Cosatu’s public sector unions to go on strike if the state reneged on its pay agreement and froze wages in the coming year, Ntshalishali said if there was a lockdown there would be no point in striking.  However, if civil servants did decide to strike it would have a devastating impact.  He stated that government needed to still go to the bargaining council and continue to engage unions, but that it must not use the coronavirus pandemic as an “escape route”.  Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of Saftu, said a number of his labour federation’s unions had already called for a total lockdown, but they were mindful that this would “put the last nail [in the coffin] of the economy and jobs”.  He said they saw no action by the government to mitigate that and, outside of the UIF intervention, “there is absolutely zilch”.


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