The team tasked with developing strategies to help save South African jobs meets for the first time in Johannesburg today.
The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) team consists of representatives from business, labour, government and civil society.
Set up on December 4 last year at a meeting between President Kgalema Motlanthe, several cabinet ministers and the Joint Presidential Economic Working Group, its aim is to minimise job losses and "other negative consequences" of the global economic crisis on South Africa.
It was agreed at the meeting that South Africa was facing an "unprecedented" situation thatwhich required "urgent action".
T-Sec economist Mike Schussler said last week the local manufacturing sector in particular would be hit hard by the global economic slowdown and that there would be job losses.
"We don't have a lot of time," said Nedlac chief executive Herbert Mkhize on Friday.
He said the team needed to have an idea of the structure of the rescue package before Finance Minister Trevor Manuel delivered his budget speech in February so that it could be accommodated in the national budget.
"We can't be developing a rescue package for South Africa after the budget speech.
" We should have an idea of what is in the package; we need to sequence it," said Mkhize.
David Morobe, chief executive of the Gauteng Enterprise Propellor, which assists in the funding of small businesses, said it would not just be employees of the bigger mines and large-scale manufacturers who faced retrenchments and unemployment.
"Consumers are cutting back on expenditure overall and SMMEs (small, medium and micro-enterprises) suffer the most," said Morobe.