The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has called on the government not to use the alcohol ban to mask its failure to provide a functioning healthcare system.
“Alcohol is not to blame for shortages of hospital beds, the government is,” the country’s biggest trade union said in a statement on Wednesday.
According to Numsa, the decision to reduce costs on primary health and healthcare services was behind the current state of affairs, where there are not enough facilities to adequately treat the deadly virus.
The union likened President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech reinstating the alcohol ban to pandering to stereotypical racist demonizations of Africans.
“To make matters worse, they unilaterally banned alcohol, with no regard whatsoever for how this will impact on workers in the sector.
“They have made no plans for workers to receive salaries or some kind of income whilst the ban is in place,” Numsa said, adding that workers in the sector were facing an uphill battle with the government’s temporary employee relief scheme ending.
It also expressed its concerns about the persistent problems in hospitals across the country, including massive shortages in staff, protective gear, medication, and facilities.
“For 26 years the ANC government has refused to uproot the racial distribution of economic and social opportunities in this country, thereby condemning the vast majority of the population – which is African and black – to a life of drug and alcohol abuse, and extreme violent crime including rape and gender-based violence,” Numsa said.
The union is now demanding that all private hospitals and healthcare providers be nationalized.
Numsa believes this will ensure that everyone has access to treatment for Covid-19 and called for testing for coronavirus to be free.
According to Numsa, employers failing to ensure safe working environments must face stiff penalties for transgressions and regular inspections, while workplaces must be shut down and deep-cleaned if employees test positive, with those under quarantine or in self-isolation being paid in full.