President Cyril Ramaphosa attends the 13th Cosatu national congress at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, September 17 2018. Picture: THULANI MBELE
President Cyril Ramaphosa attends the 13th Cosatu national congress at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, September 17 2018. Picture: THULANI MBELE

President Cyril Ramaphosa says he has implored the business community to implement a moratorium on job cuts resulting from the dire economic conditions in the country.

Addressing more than 2,000 delegates attending the Cosatu national congress in Midrand on Monday, Ramaphosa said unemployment had worsened because of state capture in state-owned enterprises and other public institutions as well as global events such as the trade wars and the decline of some emerging markets.

Cosatu has been calling for a moratorium to be enforced halting all retrenchments until the jobs summit scheduled for October has been convened when the country’s social partners will discuss solutions to the unemployment crisis.

Meanwhile, Cosatu deputy president Zingiswa Losi is expected to make history as the first woman to lead the federation when elected this week after incumbent president Sdumo Dlamini formally notified the congress of his intention not to stand for re-election. Losi’s nomination is uncontested.

According to the most recent data from Stats SA, 9.6-million people are without jobs.

"We called on business not to be hasty in retrenching workers, especially during the trying economic conditions. We said they should try everything they can to put a moratorium on retrenchments so that we could rise from these economic conditions. They should also reconsider reskilling workers," Ramaphosa said.

Last week, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), criticised business and the government’s lack of resolve to solve the country’s high levels of unemployment, social inequality and poverty.

"Big conglomerates are refusing to invest and create decent jobs in strategic sectors of the economy. They are forever on investment strikes, are retrenching workers in the mining, manufacturing, construction and other sectors of the economy, are not even prepared to engage in any meaningful discussion on the moratorium on retrenchment to save existing jobs," Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said.

The president has called on Cosatu to "bring back" workers who left the federation years ago. He was referring to members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, expelled from Cosatu in 2014 for opting to withdraw its support from the ANC during the elections.

Three other affiliates, including the Food and Allied Workers Union, disaffiliated from Cosatu in 2016.

Ramaphosa arrived at the congress flanked by high-ranking officials of the ANC.

The ANC is counting on Cosatu’s support for the coming national elections, with the federation due to discuss the issue this week in the context of a reconfigured alliance.

Cosatu affiliates have long complained of being ignored by the ANC until elections come round and want a much more equal partnership, which will involve them in consultations over key policy decisions and appointments.