The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union (Csaawu) are requesting the government to tell them of its plans to assist those employed in the alcohol industry who have been left without work due to its backtrack on booze sales.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla says the ban on alcohol was unforeseen, but now that it has occurred it is in talks with liquor industry leaders to find a common position.
“The hard ban on alcohol was too abrupt and took place without consultations,” says Pamla.
“This is a problem for workers because the government doesn’t have the strategy to support the workers who are at home.”
Pamla says Cosatu will be meeting with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) Exco on Friday to gain clarity on what government’s intentions are.
“We hope to make progress on this matter and to make sure that the National Command Council is brought on board to listen and understand the difficulties this decision has caused,” Pamla says.
Not willing to be hung out to dry
Csaawu national organising secretary Karel Swart says it fully understands why the government had to make a decision to prohibit the sale of alcohol and its transportation.
“It would be reckless for any trade union to call for the sale of alcohol, and we will not support that side of a position,” says Swart.
“But here is the problem – you cannot just ban alcohol without providing an alternative plan [for the industry] … what will happen with the truck drivers on their way to deliver?”
Swart says Csaawu has also been in talks with Vinpro, pleading with wine producers not to retrench following government’s abrupt decision.
“Our only concern is what will happen to the workers?”
Any truth in government’s tweets?
Amid all this panic, with almost a million people working in the liquor industry concerned about the future of their jobs, the government’s Twitter page on Wednesday afternoon announced that alcohol and tobacco will not be sold for the duration of the lockdown.
The recommendations made by the SA Medical Research Council in its report on the subject were quoted.
However, it quickly backtracked on its statement.
It said the earlier tweet was incorrect and that the sale of alcohol and tobacco products is prohibited under the current Level 3 regulations only, not the full duration of the lockdown.
It added, to the consternation of many, that its decision may be reviewed “at any time”.
This account posted a tweet earlier today which said that the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes would remain in place throughout the lockdown period. This is incorrect. The sale of alcohol and tobacco products is prohibited under the current Level 3 regulations.
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) July 22, 2020
But unionists say there might be some truth to the tweet.
“I think there is some truth in that,” says Swart. “I can see it through my eyes.”
Pamla is also requesting government to leave theatrics and reason with the people.
“It’s not helpful at all. No government can fix this problem alone and getting people behind the government positions and not antagonise them is always helpful.”