The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has thrown its support behind the government’s plan to encourage Covid-19 vaccinations over damaging lockdown restrictions.
The trade federation, which represents 1.8 million workers in South Africa, said it welcomed the government’s decision not to impose further restrictions on the economy.
“The retail, hospitality and tourism sectors which employ almost two million workers cannot afford another festive season under lockdown.”
Cosatu said it also welcomed the president’s establishment of a task team to investigate, engage and propose the modalities for requiring vaccinations at public venues. “This is a conversation that South Africa needs to have as a matter of urgency,” it said.
Cosatu said that the economy and workers cannot afford continued lockdowns, and the Unemployment Insurance Fund cannot continue to bail out the economy.
It added that society needs to be ‘honest and realistic’ and accept that current measures alone are insufficient.
“We now need collectively as a society to engage on requiring vaccinations to enter public spaces, malls, restaurants, events, sports etc.”
Cosatu said it had received many complaints from retail workers, prison wardens and teachers who have vaccinated and fear for their safety as some of their colleagues have not vaccinated.
“The Constitution, the supreme law of the republic, is clear that the right to life is absolute. No other right may threaten it.
“Vaccines are central to ensuring the right to life is protected, and persons who have not vaccinated pose a serious risk to others, including those who have vaccinated. Individual choice and minority rights cannot be at the expense of majority rights, let alone the right to life.”
Cosatu said the Occupational Health and Safety Act also places a legal obligation upon all employers to ensure safety for their workers and their customers. They can be held legally liable for failing to do so, it said.
The trade federation said that South Africa is likely to be treated as a global health risk and face travel restrictions if it fails to reach a 90% vaccination level.
“Any restrictions going forward must be imposed on those who fail to vaccinate. Those who vaccinate must be allowed to move on with life. Incentives and rewards should be used to encourage everyone to vaccinate,” it said.
“Cosatu is ready to engage government on the modalities to ensure that everyone is vaccinated. Workers’ lives depend on it, and we cannot afford to let workers down.”