NEHAWU Response To The Economic Reconstruction And Recovery Plan As Presented By President Ramaphosa In The Joint Sitting of Parliament
Thursday October 15, 2020
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union [NEHAWU] notes the tabling of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan by President Ramaphosa in the Joint Sitting of Parliament on the 15th October 2020, in Cape Town.
We welcome the broad thrust of the speech in so far as it emphasises job-creation. In particular, we welcome the announcement on the additional 6000 community health workers and nursing assistants that would be deployed “as we proceed with the implementation of National Health Insurance [NHI]”. However, this still falls too short in terms of the target of The Policy Framework and Strategy for Primary Health Care Outreach Teams of the Department of Health, adopted in 2017. In addition, the announcement does not have any details as to the timelines of the implementation of this commitment. NEHAWU calls on government to engage with labour on the absorption of all community health workers into the public service across all provinces and for engagement with organised labour on their pay and other conditions of service at the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council [PHSDSBC].
To realise universal health coverage, NEHAWU insists that more has to be done rapidly, given the vast shortages of clinical personnel in public healthcare, as underscored in the 2030 Human Resource for Health Strategy where it states that “the prevailing Human Resource for Health challenges are a result of continued underinvestment, limited strategic planning and management capacity, and gaps in governance, stewardship, accountability, coordination and implementation of key health workforce policy interventions for the delivery of quality services”.
Furthermore, we support the objectives of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan such as:
- Stimulation of investment growth and building the capacity of state;
- Stimulation of growth and job creation through implementation of Infrastructure Development Programme and industrialisation centred on localisation and growing export sectors;
- Social protection through Mass Public Employment Programme;
- 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
These are legitimate objectives, but are inadequate in the absence of a progressive macroeconomic strategy whose orientation should be to combat the combined COVID-19 and economic crises through output and employment targeting.
According to the NIDS-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey found that employment had temporarily declined by 3 million from 17 million in February 2020 to only 14 million in April 2020, an 18% decline. One in three income earners who earned income in February 2020 did not earn an income in April 2020. The UNDP study on COVID-19 in South Africa: a socio-economic impact assessment released at the end of June 2020, concluded that the current stimulus package may not be sufficient given that households were still going to lose at least 40 percent of their income even if they qualify for the special Temporary Employer/ Employee Relief Scheme [TERS]. Indeed, the Presidential Economic Advisory Council observed that the level of fiscal response to the pandemic announced by government was not congruent with the scale of the epidemic and the economic devastation in the wake of the circuit-breaking lockdown response. These studies underscore our overriding message that the macroeconomic framework underpinning the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, is extremely divisive, regressive, neoliberal and anti-transformative.
It militates against the goals of the ANC’s 2019 manifesto which is the basis of the legitimacy of the ANC-led sixth democratic dispensation. We are extremely disappointed and deeply disturbed that in the face of overwhelming failure of austerity, fiscal consolidation since 2015, the President felt compelled to be misguided by conservative forces in Treasury to turn against workers and join the bandwagon launching a frontal attack on the hard worn gains of workers by succumbing to the propaganda of Treasury with regard to the Public Sector Wage bill.
The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, is extremely disappointing because it has been hijacked by Asset Managers, financiers and big banks who want to loot state-owned enterprises, and state coffers under the guise of blended financing model. The “leveraging as much as R1 trillion”, if it would materialise at all, would come at massive cost on the majority of our society, of which the odious Gauteng e-tolls project is an illustrative case in point. The President is missing a fundamental point and a lesson that the fight against corruption, must also be a fight against combating neoliberal baggage of Treasury. The “rupture with the past and an opportunity to drive fundamental and lasting change” of which he spoke in this address, must include the rupture with the disastrous Neoliberal macroeconomic framework.
The national union will fight tooth and nail against the use workers’ pension funds to be used to finance the deregulation of the energy sector, unbundling of ESKOM and finally its privatisation. NEHAWU will mobilise all progressive forces behind a popular front against neoliberalism, austerity, privatisation, corruption and attacks on hard won gains of the workers. In the coming period, we shall sustain our mass combative posture to defend collective bargaining and the gains of the public sector workers as well as for the immediate implementation of NHI, comprehensive social security including the basic income grant, and for the imposition of capital controls on cross-border illicit capital flows, and for a wealth tax on the rich to finance social and economic infrastructure.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat and DHET
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968;
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969;
Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 - email firstname.lastname@example.org