Government considers measure to prevent strikes

2014-01-21 12:24

The government is considering the introduction of compulsory interest arbitration – a controversial means of replacing wage negotiations to completely avoid the possibility of strikes.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant today expressed her support for the idea in a prepared speech at the annual conference of the labour federations that sit in Nedlac.

Proposals to counter strike violence contained in the National Development Plan (NDP) do not go far enough, she said.

“While the NDP recognises the need to stabilise the labour environment, its proposal is to strengthen the CCMA and dispute resolution.

“Perhaps it is time to go a bit further and consider new dispute resolution mechanisms such as compulsory or interest arbitration,” said Oliphant.

Compulsory interest arbitration has been mooted before as an answer to South Africa’s particularly damaging public-sector strikes and has much in common with declaring these jobs “essential services” where the right to strike is overridden by public interest in uninterrupted service.

Oliphant said international research showed that settlements reached through interest arbitration “are not very far from” those reached after strikes.

“Clearly, interest arbitration cannot be viewed as an alternative to the strike in South Africa, but it may have potential as a part of the collective bargaining process that can lead to speedy and less costly dispute resolution.”

But Oliphant did say it was “unlikely” that there would be “specific legal amendments” to address strike violence. She specifically mentioned the return of mandatory strike ballots.

Oliphant also expressed support for the often-repeated plea from business lobbies, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Reserve Bank Governer Gill Marcus that wage increases should be linked to productivity growth.

The NDP has also pleaded for such a link.

Oliphant said: “This is an area that the department has not addressed directly, but one that will require attention.”

National minimum wage

Oliphant also shed some light on what the ANC meant by its election promise to “investigate the modality” of introducing a single national minimum wage within five years.

The department of labour could simply use the pending amendment to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, she told the conference this morning.

Among other things, the amendment bill, which has been in the pipeline since 2012, gives the minister the power to issue an “umbrella” sectoral determination that covers every worker not covered by a sectoral determination or bargaining system.

“So, there may be ways in which a new minimum wage that has a wide application could be introduced,” she said.

South Africa has a variety of minimum wages for different sectors, leaving much of the labour market to fall through the cracks.

“The more difficult challenge will, of course, be to determine the level of a new minimum wage. We look forward to a very lively engagement on this issue,” said Oliphant.

The department believes minimum wages should increase to a level that addresses the challenge of poverty and supports economic expansion. The ANC has given itself five years to do this.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.