On 1st May, the international community commemorates International Workers’ Day to recognise the importance and contribution of workers in development, and to promote workers’ rights. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) joins the rest of the world in celebrating the day.
This year, we celebrate the International Workers’ Day under unusual and extremely difficult circumstances due to challenges and hardships emanating form COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to unprecedented loss of jobs and livelihoods. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has so far estimated that up to 25 million jobs will be lost globally, as a result of the extreme measures, but necessary in containing the spread of COVID-19.
Notwithstanding the dire circumstances, and the threat to health and safety, millions of workers across the world have continued to serve on the frontlines to ensure the provision of health services and other essential services. SADC salutes these men and women, most notably those in the health sector, who have shown remarkable resilience and exemplary commitment in the war against COVID-19. We also pay special tribute to many that have succumbed to the disease owing to their direct exposure.
SADC calls on governments working with other stakeholders, including the private sector, and Civil Societies, to continue strengthening health systems and to guarantee the provision of safe and healthy working conditions for those on the frontlines. SADC commends Member States that have implemented social protection measures aimed at protecting jobs and livelihoods, in order to guarantee income security, and improve the prospects of an inclusive and rapid recovery path.
SADC also recognises the many employers that have avoided drastic measures that would have unduly and disproportionately affected workers, by resorting to innovative ways of managing business processes through the use of technology. As the months ahead may pose even more challenges for the world of work, we encourage all Member States to utilise the established machinery of tripartite social dialogue to strengthen cooperation and solidarity, which are critically important in the search for sustainable solutions.
On this special day for all workers, SADC urges Member States to implement commitments in the SADC Code on Social Security, which is premised on the principle that “everyone in SADC has the right to social security.” The Code requires Member States to progressively raise their systems of social security to provide meaningful coverage of everyone through schemes that provide for unemployment and maternity benefits, among others. Implementation of the Code will rightfully enhance working and living conditions in the Community, and contribute to socio-economic resilience in dealing with shocks similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In wishing all workers a happy May Day, SADC is confident that Member States will continue to implement COVID-19 response measures that will protect the labour markets, jobs and incomes, support vulnerable workers in the informal economy, and facilitate the economic recovery and socio-economic stability.
May I appeal to workers and employers to take COVID-19 pandemic seriously, and continue to observe and implement preventive measures as guided by respective national health authorities and the World Health Organization. Above all, the SADC must remain united in the fight against this pandemic, for it is only when united and every one play their part that we will win the battle against COVID-19.
Happy Workers Day.