Business, labour respond to President’s economic recovery plan

Friday, October 16, 2020

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan for the emphasis it places on job creation. 

In a statement shortly after the President’s speech at the joint sitting of Parliament, NEHAWU’s secretariat said: “In particular, we welcome the announcement on the additional 6 000 community health workers and nursing assistants, who will be deployed ‘as we proceed with the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI)’.” 

NEHAWU called on government to engage with labour on the absorption of all community health workers into the public service across all provinces. It called for engagement on remuneration with organised labour, and other conditions of service at the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council (PHSDSBC). 

The trade union’s secretariat also said it supported the objectives of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, such as: 

·      Stimulation of investment growth and building the capacity of the State;

·      Stimulation of growth and job creation through the implementation of the Infrastructure Development Programme, and industrialisation centred on localisation and growing export sectors;

·      Social protection through the Mass Public Employment Programme, and

·      Strengthening empowerment, transformation of ownership patterns in the economy, including participation of vulnerable groups, and further strengthening of the role of SMMEs and cooperatives across the economy. 

Meanwhile, in its newsletter, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) said the President’s commitment of R100 billion over the next three years to create 800 000 employment opportunities through public and social employment programmes can only create temporary relief. 

“The mass employment plan is a positive step, especially because it is reliably feasible, given that a component of it is scaling up existing projects within government’s Expanded Public Works Programme. 

“Many of the jobs will not be permanent or full-time, however, but will serve as a bridge to out-of-work people to begin accessing employment. 

“However, it will be hugely challenging for government to roll these plans out at municipal level while managing the process centrally.” 

In his speech, the President said social partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) have agreed to support the massive ‘buy local’ campaign for this festive season, with a particular call to support women-owned enterprises, small business and township enterprises. 

BLSA said business and labour will soon be publishing localisation targets for goods in areas such as agro-processing, health care, basic consumer goods, industrial equipment, construction materials and transport rolling stock. 

“The aim of the local content policy is to reverse the decline of the local manufacturing sector and promote reindustrialisation through deeper levels of localisation and exports. 

“It is right to focus on this area because it is jobs-intensive and the key will be industrialisation related to the just energy transition from coal to renewable energy sources.” 

On Monday, the NEDLAC Community Constituency, a movement that includes organisations such as the South African National Civic Organisation and the SA Youth Council, among others, wrote to the President to request an extension of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant as a humanitarian response, a Constitutional obligation and a crucial economic recovery intervention. 

In his speech, the President announced that the special COVID-19 grant would be extended by a further three months. 

Thulani Tshefuta, the Overall Convenor of the Community Constituency in NEDLAC, said: “We wrote to the Presidency on Monday with an urgent request that the COVID- 19 Social Relief of Distress grant be extended. 

“We are heartened by this change in policy, as it demonstrates a far greater understanding of the need to support the agency of ordinary people to be catalysts for structural change. 

“This shows the courage of breaking with the old views and embracing evidence- based policies. This response highlights the benefit of social dialogue amongst social partners as part of our national social compact.” 

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