Labour laws contribute to strikes – employers

2014-08-20 12:45

Labour laws have contributed to the prolonged, violent strikes the country has seen in various industries, the National Employers’ Association of South Africa said.

“While we agree that the current labour legislation is not a direct or the only driver of the violent strikes, one should not shy away from admitting that South Africa’s labour laws play a huge role in exacerbating unemployment, poverty and inequality,” the association’s chief executive Gerhard Papenfus said today.

“Employers all over the world respond negatively when governments overprescribe to them how to run their affairs.”

The association disagreed with comments made by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant at the mining lekgotla in Midrand last week.

At the time, Oliphant said the biggest problem was not legislation but the lack of “real transformation”, socioeconomic equity, mutual respect and trust in the workplace.

“In my observation, these have contributed to the anger and frustration that we see in the current industrial relations dynamics,” she said.

“So we need to be very careful about tinkering with the law when the law is not the culprit.”

Oliphant said “quick fixes and emotional solutions” would not be sustainable.

Papenfus said the employers’ association agreed with Oliphant but there had been ample opportunity to consider fundamental changes that would stimulate business.

On Sunday, the presidency announced that President Jacob Zuma had signed into law the Labour Relations Amendment Act.

Papenfus said the latest changes gave business very little to be excited about. The changes were more “cosmetic and technical” and were made to appease the Congress of South African Trade Unions, he said.

“The problem is that the ANC’s tripartite alliance partners and, to a lesser extent, big business in the National Economic Development and Labour Council are the only ones to have the minister’s ear,” he said.

The employers’ association maintained that the current labour laws were detrimental to sustainable growth and development.

The Labour Relations Act was not an enabler of business and would ultimately fail in creating employment, Papenfus said.

“Unless something drastic is done about it our socioeconomic challenges will increase. At some point we’ll have to face this reality and make radical decisions,” he said.

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