Protect existing jobs first, says Fedusa general secretary

Stellenbosch – Protecting existing labour jobs in South Africa remains the first responsibility for organised labour, Dennis George, general secretary of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) told Fin24 on Monday.

He was attending the Accelerating Inclusive Youth Employment conference hosted by Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator at the Spier Wine Estate.

"Our take out from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent jobs summit was that there really is a deep commitment from business, labour and government to work together," George told Fin24 on the sidelines of the conference.

He said business and organised labour had agreed to follow proper procedures and work together, for instance, when a company is in trouble and wants to avoid going under or having to retrench people.

The employment tax incentive also provides encouragement for the private sector to employ people.

George said the biggest challenge for youth employment lies in having the right leadership to provide direction. This leadership must not just be for six months or a year, but long-term.

For him the biggest hurdle to overcome is the mindset towards productive labour capacity.

"Many people were excluded in the past. Now, with the new Constitution and new democracy, people have ambitions and goals, but we find they still feel excluded. That is what I mean by SA’s productive capacity not having been extended," said George.

"It has become a cultural mindset of entrepreneurship that people are lacking. So, government can talk all it wants about people starting small businesses, but to have their own businesses people need to be taught the skills for it."

Furthermore, capital is needed to enable people to build up their businesses, including in agriculture.

In George's view, one of the basic problems is providing suitable education and training for young people to be able to get employment in areas where skills are needed. And these need not be academic in nature, but involve apprenticeships, for instance.

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