A network of organisations representing informal workers in South Africa – who number about five-million – has lamented the lack of recognition of the challenges the sector faces in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The organisations called on government, trade union federations and big business to ensure that in all upcoming National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) discussions, representatives of organised workers in the informal economy are invited to participate to present the perspectives of workers in the informal economy, including self-employed workers.
The organisations also requested that employers of informal workers not be allowed to send staff home with no pay amid the current crisis.
Workers in this segment - informal or self-employed - have already been seriously impacted on by the crisis.
Considering that most of these workers live day-by-day on small incomes, the organisations have called on government to make urgent arrangements to redirect funds from the Unemployment Insurance Fund surplus, from large events that have been cancelled and from other sources to support these workers.
The organisations have also requested the establishment of a Living Cash Grant to all informal workers, regardless of nationality.
“This would enable vulnerable informal workers to comply with calls to self-isolate without losing their livelihoods, and go on to survive the worst times to come,” the statement said.
According to the organisations’ combined statement, the crisis creates an opportunity for government, trade union federations and society at large to “take stock and recognise all informal workers” in line with the International Labour Organisation’s Recommendation 204.
“It is a reminder of the low levels of legal compliance of many employers in this country, and a reminder of the enormous contribution that self-employed workers make. It is an opportunity for government to redirect substantial resources into getting our health system ready to assist everybody who needs it right now.”