Business

Zuma announces steps to quell labour unrest

Nickolaus Bauer

President Jacob Zuma has moved to restore confidence in South Africa's economy by unveiling a wide-ranging plan to address ongoing labour unrest.

President Jacob Zuma. (M&G)

"We have emerged today [Wednesday] with one voice, one message and strong confidence in our capacity as a society to address the immediate challenges we face," Zuma told reporters at the Union Buildings on Wednesday.

His comments followed a high-level meeting between government, business and organised labour on Tuesday, the second of its kind after initially gathering on Friday.

"All parties agree to take steps to improve public and investor confidence in the economy and in social stability, using their respective resources and capacities to build a partnership for development,' Zuma said.

The move follows intense labour unrest in South Africa, which saw workers in the mining and transport sectors embark on industrial action. The disquiet led to two successive credit ratings downgrades for South Africa's economy.

Those present at the meeting included Business Unity South Africa, the Black Business Council, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Federation of Unions of South Africa, Nedlac and several government ministers.

Zuma called for industrial relations in the mining sector to be normalised as a matter of urgency. 

"We assure workers that we recognise the frustrations and challenges that have become clearer during the protests, and the legitimate grievances will be attended to," Zuma said.

In the hopes of facilitating the sector's normalisation special attention would be placed on addressing the housing needs of mining communities, pressure caused from wage disparities, and increased reckless lending.

"While many accords and social agreements have been reached in the past, we want this to be different in the speed and focus of our implementation," Zuma said.

The plan to bring the mining sector under control will also work in tandem with a plan to:

  • Accelerate overall economic growth by speeding up infrastructure development;
  • Provide assistance to workers and companies affected by the current global economic slowdown, and;
  • Increase job creation through the public sector works programme.

Zuma did not provide any details for the plan or its development and implementation.

"We will move with the requisite sense of focus and urgency to implement this," he said.

As an attempt to "build an equitable economy", Zuma said all those involved in the meeting would call on CEOs and executive directors in both the public and private sectors to agree to a freeze in salaries and bonuses for 12 months.

"I call on all South Africans to join me. We have a responsibility to our country, our common future, to act as one," Zuma said.

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