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U-turn: Cosatu now backs mandatory vaccination, but other unions are still averse

The main labor union organization in the country, Cosatu, has shifted its position and now favors obligatory Covid-19 immunization. President Cyril Ramaphosa stated Sunday night that a government task committee is investigating the possibility of making vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory for particular activities and areas. Cosatu, which represents a coalition of labor unions associated with the ruling party, including unions in the public sector, claims that although it first opposed mandatory Covid-19 immunizations, its position has changed. "Our position has altered," Sizwe Pamla, a representative for Fin24, said.

Previously, the federation was outspokenly opposed to the concept, as some businesses – including Discovery, Old Mutual, and Curro – as well as institutions – pushed to restrict access to their facilities to only vaccinated persons. "At first, our strategy was to urge individuals to vaccinate. However, the fact is that 2022 will mark the third year of survival in the face of this lethal epidemic. We do not want another lockdown; we would prefer to compel people to vaccinate rather than have another lockdown."

Pamla said that Cosatu is primarily opposed to another lockdown, which he believes will be catastrophic for the country's already fragile economy. Although member unions have backed mandated vaccinations, the choice to endorse them was "not an easy or popular one" and was made in part due to the economic impact of the epidemic, particularly the country's recurrent power outages.See the source image

He said that health care employees have paid the ultimate price with their lives, while individuals in the service industry had faced massive job losses as a result of several hotels being forced to close. "Vaccination is not the worst choice at the moment; losing people's ability to make a livelihood is the worst option," he said.

Impose nothing

Cosatu's view is not shared by other unions, notably the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which has said that it would battle tooth and nail to safeguard its members from the consequences of refusing the shot if vaccination becomes mandatory. "As was the case with tuberculosis and HIV, testing was optional, and the procedure was a success. We believe that the same concept should apply to Covid-19," stated NUM deputy president Phillip Vilakazi.

Vilakazi noted that since the mining industry recruited workers from many segments of society, religious and cultural views, and even nations, it was critical that the vaccination take this variety into account. "We support the task force's existence... but until its recommendations are made public, our freedom to choose remains intact.

"The government's attitude should be one of persuasion rather than intimidation. When threats are introduced, there is likely to be resistance, and we are prepared to fight for the rights of our members," Vilakazi said. Numerous mining companies are operating workplace immunization stations to aid the government's deployment. Initially aimed towards workers, the system has been expanded to include whole communities. According to Minerals Council statistics, 53% of the workforce is completely immunized, compared to 37% of the adult population in South Africa.See the source image

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) states that although the vaccines have been shown to be effective, it would also oppose obligatory immunization. "We will continue to promote vaccination among members. We think that people who choose not to vaccinate for any reason have a constitutional right to do so."

Solidarity, the trade union, is likewise opposed to obligatory vaccination. Connie Mulder, director of the union's Research Institute, said that businesses had already slipped the technique via the back door and that there was legal grounds to dispute such an approach. "While we urge individuals to vaccinate, no one should be compelled to do so."

Employers are required to provide a safe working environment that does not jeopardize the health of workers or anyone who may be directly impacted by their operations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993. According to some employers, the act creates a loophole for mandates in the absence of specific legislation authorizing them to impose mandatory vaccination requirements.


U-turn: Cosatu now backs mandatory vaccination, but other unions are still averse | Fin24 (

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Cosatu Covid-19 Cyril Ramaphosa Fin24 Sizwe Pamla


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