Zuma urges labour to work with government

President Jacob Zuma. (Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg)
President Jacob Zuma. (Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg)

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has praised organised labour and business for working with the government to avert a recent ratings downgrade, and said the cooperation should continue.

Speaking at the opening of a meeting of the presidential labour working group in Pretoria on Tuesday, he thanked trade union leaders for cooperating with business and government to keep the economy from ruin.

“If we work together in the manner we have done in the past few months, I am convinced that we will overcome the challenges that we face.”

Zuma said the sectors should all work together as they had done in 2008, when a global economic downturn loomed.

“We have had success before of working together to find practical solutions to our immediate challenges. As you would recall, after the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008 we crafted a strategy to cushion the impact of the crisis on workers. 

“We need that spirit to address our challenges today.”

‘Foundation of common purpose’

He said the first international “pro-South Africa tour” undertaken by the three sectors in February “showed immense patriotism and unity in action to build our country”.

The roadshow was led by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in March, shortly after his Budget Speech in Parliament and even as the Hawks pursued him for an answer to 27 questions relating to their investigation into an intelligence unit set up by the South African Revenue Service while Gordhan was in charge.

“Successful nations are built on the foundation of common purpose. Our culture of consultation and dialogue to build a shared national vision and unity of purpose is what has made it possible for South Africa to succeed,” he said.

Zuma said the meeting happened as the “economy is facing strong headwinds due to a weak global economy and some challenges in the domestic sphere. The economic situation makes it difficult to create jobs, and this affects all in our country, especially our youth.”

More needs to be done

However, he said it was encouraging that everyone could unite to find ways to reignite growth. “Without growth, it will be difficult to create the numbers of jobs that we need to break the back of unemployment.”

But, said Zuma, more needed to be done “to strengthen the economy and address the domestic constraints to growth which are in our control”.

He thanked labour for cooperating during the passing of recent labour law amendments and the retirement benefits of workers.

Issues on the meeting’s agenda included the state of the economy and steps that should be taken to turn it around to stem job losses and create decent jobs.

The minimum wage and the social security system were also to be discussed.

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