Workers' Day celebrates labour and the working classes, and their contribution to national economies.
In South Africa, it also recognises the role that workers and trade unions played in championing workers' rights in the struggle against apartheid.
Today, South Africans and international workers come together to pay homage to the advancements made in the world of work while keeping an eye out on the things that still need changing such as salary discrepancies between females and males and gender-based harassment in the workplace.
UASA keeps pushing the agenda and struggle for better and safer work environments for all employees. With South Africa’s current unemployment rate at around 27%, it is our responsibility as a trade union to keep the currently employed safe in the workplace, while we continue looking at strategies to create more employment.
Workers are also at risk of possible job losses resulting from the 4th industrial revolution. We need to prepare our members and make them aware of jobs that do not yet exist while accepting that some jobs will be lost along the way. Reskilling of workers needs to start without delay to minimise potential job losses among the employed and to open doors to new workplaces. We also need to turn our immediate attention to the issue of youth unemployment, many young people are sitting at home with no jobs or opportunities to generate any form of income and that is straining the economy. We need to come up with clear plans on how we are going to alleviate youth unemployment, create jobs and opportunities for them to be active in growing the economy of the country.
Climate change also has some undesired effects on jobs and job security in South Africa. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that by 2030, climate change will result in a possible 3000 job losses just in the chemical sector in South Africa and that a further 11 400 jobs might be lost due to changes in the international trade. Despite this, there are some encouraging efforts being implemented to try and reduce the jobs loses. Developments in chemicals used in production, making them more environmentally friendly plus the push to reduce greenhouse gasses has yielded some positive results. But is this enough? We need to see more commitment from big industries to making this world cleaner thereby reducing health risks along with the possibilities of job losses.
It is up to us to hold employers accountable and ensure they play their part in order to secure the jobs of tomorrow.
Workers have come a long way, we have done many remarkable things and influenced change, but we are still far from the ideal workplace. Unions and workers must continue pushing for change and lead the way to the best possible workplace for all.
Happy Workers’ Day to all!