A fair balance between regulation and flexibility’

2012-04-19 00:00

WHILE business and labour continue to disagree on certain proposed amendments to labour laws, a labour expert has described the amendments as a fair balance between regulation and flexibility in the labour market.

This view was reiterated at a public briefing on the amendments in Durban yesterday, with the Department of Labour’s chief director, collective bargaining, Thembinkosi Mkalipi, stressing that the proposed changes seek to safeguard and encourage job creation while protecting workers.

The event was part of a national road-show on proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), which have been sent to Parliament.

One key change relates to temporary employment services (TES), which are commonly known as labour brokers.

The government is not proposing a ban on labour brokers as demanded by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), but it has opted for more stringent regulation.

Fiona Leppan, director, employment, at law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr told The Witness the government has achieved a fine balancing act between flexibility and regulation in the labour market.

In terms of the proposals, a worker employed through a broker will be deemed to be an employee of the broker’s client (the company) if he or she has been employed for more than six months.

Under the proposed amendments, these workers could then take advantage of organisational rights and benefits enjoyed by other workers within a collective bargaining agreement.

Workers employed through a TES would now have the option of instituting direct action against the TES’s client (the company), instead of having to first seek recourse with the TES in a dispute.

Mkalipi said the amendment also introduced an earnings threshold of R172 000 per annum, below which workers were protected by the changes relating to TES.

Workers earning below the threshold on fixed-term contracts for more than six months would be deemed to be employed by the company for an indefinite period, and they would enjoy similar benefits as “permanently employed” workers performing similar jobs.

Mkalipi said companies that wished to employ workers on fixed-term contracts for more than six months would have to provide justifiable reasons for doing so.

Certain companies, mainly certain categories of small businesses and start-ups, would be exempted from the proposals on fixed-term contracts.

Trade unions would also have to conduct a ballot and gain a majority vote in favour of a strike for the strike to be deemed protected.

 

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