Who wants to change the labour law?

2014-03-02 14:00

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With the Amcu strike in the platinum sector well into its second month and labour relations at the forefront of every economic discussion, City Press asked political parties what they think should be done.

In particular, we asked parties if they propose any changes to labour law in reaction to the trend towards more acrimonious and violent strikes - and what else they think constitutes the right government response.

DA - YES

The DA believes that strike ballots should be introduced because strikes are launced “by labour union bosses without consultation with members”. The official opposition believes a majority vote should precede any strike.

The party does not however support new ways to have protected strike declared “unprotected”, which in legal terms allows companies to discipline or fire strikers.

The government’s approach to improving labour relations should be “good regulations”, not task teams.

The DA also thinks labour relations education is needed to counter the “culture of violence amanating from our past”.

“Unions (need) to teach their members how to conduct themselves. Employers should also do the same.”

Agang - YES

Agang wants the Labour Relations Act revised to include strike ballots, but also rules around “good faith bargaining”. The law should also allow for the “protected” status of strike to be revoked if violence breaks out while unions should be made liable for damages in civil law, says Agang.

The party’s major proposal is that “plant level” strikes be banned with only national sectoral strikes allowed after the introduction of a “two-tier” bargaining council system. This means a wage range gets negotiated nationally and real increases within the range get negotiated at plant or company level.

Agang also thinks labour relations can be improved by implementing “additional protection for dismissal for low earning employees” in the form of a qualifying period for dismissal protection of six to 12 months.

There should be very little protection against dismissal for executives.

Agang also says it would “strive to increase communication with labour unions and workers to minimize the chance of unrealistic wage demands”.

EFF - NO

The EFF is dead set against “legislation that will make it difficult for workers to strike and protest for their rights and wages”, says Floyd Shivambu, commissar for research, policy and political education.

“The most decisive way government can improve labour relations is to institute minimum wages that workers are demanding and ensuring that all companies and corporations comply to the minimum wage requirements.”

Task teams are “useless” and should be telling companies to meet worker demands, he says.

“An end to violent strikes can only come through giving workers what they demand and ensuring that they work and live in humane conditions. EFF government will reliably and consistently be on the side of workers and will most certainly find way to ensure that all their demands and aspirations are met,” says Shivambu .

COPE - NO

COPE doesn’t propose any legislative changes, but believes that “law enforcement personnel should urgently receive sensitivity training” as well as “training on how to deal with confrontational situation in a professional and non-violent manner”.

The party thinks that violent strikes “are an expression of the discontent that South Africans have with resource wastage in the country”, meaning corruption and maladministration by government.

COPE says it would address violent strikes by urging all parties to deal with disputes better.

“Labour needs to think about the interest of their constituents as well as the good of the country and employers need to take drastic measures to fast track transformation,” it says.

“We understand the economics of wealth creation, but we also understand that the days of slave labour must be put behind us.”

ANC - YES

The ANC did not respond to City Press queries and its election manifesto makes no mention of labour relations. As the governming party it has however made recent changes to the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, including some around the way strikes are conducted.

Among these it “clarifies” that a breach of picketing rules would not enjoy protection against civil claims and revamps the essential services committee that declares which workers can’t strike.

An earlier proposal to introduce strike ballots has been removed by the ANC in parliament.

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