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Political Economy

Author: Hendri Pelser|

06 December 2011 12:33

No consensus on proposed labour bills

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Business balks at reports saying consensus on draft legislation reached at Nedlac.

JOHANNESBURG - Business representatives are furious after Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant was quoted saying that consensus on draft labour legislation had been reached at Nedlac.

“We are very, very angry as an industry… This (the comments made in the report) has come out of nowhere and it is causing a huge disruption for us as an industry. Business reads the report and it creates a sense of uncertainty,” John Botha, GM of PMI, said in response.

The PMI executive represents the Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector at Business Unity SA (Busa). Through Busa, he is one of the six business representatives discussing the new labour laws at Nedlac.

A recent media report quoted Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant saying that Nedlac had agreed on amendments to two of the bills. Her spokesperson, Musa Zondi, confirmed to Moneyweb that she believes that there “is broad consensus on the issues”.

While Zondi initially told Moneyweb that comments relating the criminalisation of labour brokers and the limitation of temporary employment were correct, he later distanced the minister from the report.

However, it seems as if the minister’s comments are extremely premature and that a consensus through the Nedlac negotiation process is highly unlikely.

Four Bills published for comment last December that include significant changes to labour legislation are being discussed by Nedlac. These are the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill, the Labour Relations Act Amendment Bill, the Employment Equity Amendment Bill and the Employment Services Bill.

Botha explained that the four Bills under review represented “very significant principles of labour law”. The issues under discussion ranged from retrenchment and strikes to the transfers of a business from one entity to another. The political hot potato of labour broking “is fourth or fifth on the list of issues for business”.

Botha added that it was highly unlikely for a consensus to be reached on all these issues, but added that “there is probably still a bit of room for movement by everyone”.

Botha said that Nedlac wants to finalise agreements on the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the Labour Relations Act Amendment Bill by the end of the year. It is to tackle the Employment Equity Amendment Bill and the Employment Services Bill early next year.

Zondi said the minister wants to present the Bills to parliament by the end of the financial year.

Nedlac did not respond to Moneyweb’s requests for comment on the status of the negotiations.

For the record, Botha explained that there “is no talk of criminalisation in terms of overtime or labour broking”. He said criminalisation had been mooted two years ago, but after business refused it was left out of the legislation.

“You also don’t need to get any approval to get temporary workers whatsoever,” he added.

Regarding fixed term contracts, Botha said that employers will need to justify the decision but that this is not new either. “All that has happened now, is that we have unpacked the criteria around that…

“Labour brokers will have to get a licence to trade, but once again they have always needed a licence to trade.”

The only major change in the Labour Relations Act Amendment Bill is that contract workers will receive the same benefits as permanent employees. However, this will only apply after a prescribed period of time which is still being discussed. “It will not have as a significant impact as what people think,” Botha said.

Topics: draft labour legislation, Nedlac, Mildred Oliphant, Musa Zondi, Labour Relations Act Amendment Bill,
Who's Who

NAME:  Hendri Pelser
BIO: Hendri is CitiBusiness's editor. He is passionate about the economy and small businesses.

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