The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) has backed government’s plan to investigate the feasibility of making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory in South Africa.
Fedusa is the latest labour federation, after Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), to endorse President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday on the establishment of a task team that will undertake broad consultations on making vaccination mandatory for specific activities and locations.
This comes in the wake of the detection of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, which has sent alarm bells globally, and vaccine hesitancy among South Africans.
Forty-one percent of the adult population in the country has received at least one vaccine dose, while 35.6% are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
In a statement on Tuesday, Fedusa said it believed that organised labour, business, government and other stakeholders represented at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) should be given the opportunity to investigate the complexities of introducing mandatory vaccinations for workers and the general public.
The labour federation said this should be in addition to investigating the feasibility of restricting access for unvaccinated individuals to shared spaces and public facilities such as workplaces, public transport, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals and places of worship.
“The outcomes of such investigations and consultations should strike a good balance between public health concerns, constitutional provisions, cultural and religious beliefs and the imperatives of economic recovery and reconstruction.
“An important area of focus for organised labour would be whether both the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act should be amended to include Covid-19 as an occupational disease that triggers fair compensation for affected workers,” Fedusa said.
Fedusa raised concerns about South Africa’s low vaccination rate, saying government was still a long way off from achieving its 70% target required to achieve herd immunity.
The labour federation said it would continue reaching out to unvaccinated workers and individuals to embrace the government’s Vooma Vaccination Weekends, meant for workers and other citizens who are unable to get their jabs during the week.
Another alcohol ban
With the festive season around the corner and concerns over the looming fourth wave of infections, Fedusa also called for responsible behaviour among citizens in order to avoid another ban on alcohol sales and damage to the local economy.
It said irresponsible consumption of alcoholic beverages remained vital to avoid the loss of lives over this holiday season.
“Another alcohol ban on top of the latest international travel bans and red lists will hit the already embattled hospitality and tourism industries hard and lead to more job losses and irreparable harm.”
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe