Labour and business agree: Saving lives is the priority

The Nedlac report is expected to document progress and challenges encountered in relation to the framework agreement.
The Nedlac report is expected to document progress and challenges encountered in relation to the framework agreement.
Image: Themba Hadebe / POOL / AFP

Saving lives was the most important thing during the coronavirus pandemic.

This was  the consensus reached at a meeting between government, labour and business, who agreed that priority should be given to measures to contain the spread of the virus and the Covid-19 respiratory illness it causes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa chaired a special meeting with social partners represented in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to discuss deepening co-operation as part of the national effort to combat the pandemic.

Friday's virtual meeting was attended by Nedlac representatives from government, business, labour and the community constituency.

Participants agreed with the president that the pandemic was a health, economic and social crisis of unprecedented scale with far-reaching implications for the SA economy, said the presidency in a statement.

“The meeting agreed that the health and wellbeing of all South Africans must be the overriding concern of all sections of society, and that it was therefore necessary to intensify the public health response to the pandemic,” said the presidency.

The social partners also agreed that SA’s economy and society would be fundamentally changed once the epidemic has been eradicated, and that it was imperative that SA citizens and businesses be protected from its adverse impact.

The social partners of Nedlac were also unanimous that they needed to lend their full support to proposed economic recovery measures and social support to support society’s most vulnerable.

The statement quoted Ramaphosa as saying: “In bracing ourselves for the worst economic fallout, SA is not alone. By most predictions there will be a global economic slowdown this year, and it is inevitable that emerging markets and developing country economies will be negatively impacted.”

The meeting also agreed that a risk-adjusted approach was necessary in determining the country’s response. It said that while recognising the need to resume economic activity as soon as possible, Nedlac partners expressed their appreciation of government’s position that lifting the nationwide lockdown too abruptly could result in dire consequences.

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