The commemoration of the 2020 International Workers’ Day (May Day) takes place under an unprecedented and complex global health crisis brought about by the dreaded Corona Virus pandemic. Its impact on workers in South Africa, in the continent and across the world, is one of the most devastating health and socio-economic crisis the world of work has ever experienced. Millions of jobs are being lost globally, families are confronted with economic hardships as economies are under major strain due to inactivity.
The aftermath of this virus will be hurtful to the poor and the working class, particularly the low-wage workers, amongst others.
In South Africa, the Covid-19 pandemic has more graphically highlighted the depth of the triple challenges facing our nation, of inequality, poverty and unemployment. The global crisis has thus made it imperative and urgent to confront with these challenges, more sharply than ever before, as an integral part of fighting the pandemic. The human solidarity and unity that has emerged amongst South Africans in the battle against this dangerous invisible enemy, will be required to defeat the resultant sociopath-economic challenges that will remain with us after this pandemic. South African working class has consistently affirmed the principle that workplace struggles cannot be separated from broader societal developmental efforts.
The unity of the workers and the working class during this time is more paramount than ever, as historically affirmed by the famous rallying cry, “workers of the world unite…” As certain sectors of our economy opens and various categories of workers are set to return to workplaces following weeks of complete lockdown to slow down the rate of infections, all efforts must be made to ensure conducive environments, which are safe and hygienic for the workers. Companies are called upon to ensure that workers are protected and regulations as well as all labour laws are strictly observed.
We commend the government for its bold and necessary intervention, in the form of R500-billion set aside for injection into the economy, to assist with cushioning the enormous socio-economic effects of Covid-19. This includes relief for people who have been hit hard by the virus, the unemployed and companies.
On this day, our solidarity is with all the workers of our land as they toil under the precarious Covid-19 conditions both remotely behind the gates of their residences and formal physical workplaces.
We particularly salute essential workers who are at the forefront of the national battle against the spread of Covid-19. These include health care practitioners, law enforcement officers, retail workers, community workers, scientists and the military. Theirs is commendable passion driven patriotism, selflessness and love for humanity demonstrated.
We are convinced that as a united front, victory against COVID-19 is certain. We owe it to our forebears who fought hard and protracted battles in South Africa and across the world for workers' rights and social justice over the past centuries. We also owe it to future generations of workers to conquer this health and economic crisis with minimum negative impact on our nation and families.
We wish all South Africans and workers well during Worker’s Day. May we all continue ensuring we remain safe, observe social distancing and exercise the hygiene guidelines at all times.