Mashaba fights council controls

2013-03-10 10:00

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After many years of bemoaning what he alleges to be collusion between bargaining councils, big business and big trade unions to exclude small business and the unemployed, businessperson and chair of the Free Market Foundation, Herman Mashaba,

has finally lodged court papers to declare the arrangement unconstitutional. He spoke to Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya

Why are you doing this?

I have relatives and members of my immediate family who will never get work if this system continues. About 65% of young black people are unemployed.

Those are my nephews and nieces. Please understand that we are not against bargaining councils or trade unions. We are not saying trade unions and employers should not have bargaining councils.

We are saying their agreements should not apply to non-parties.

Big business and big trade unions are colluding to keep small players and the unemployed out. Collusion is illegal in this country, but they are doing it with the support of government.

If an employer says they cannot afford to pay a certain minimum, then they should be exempt. If the employees feel they don’t want to work for what is offered, then they must be free to go.

Secondly, I think of my own background and conclude that I would have never made it in my life and in business if these laws had applied when I was young and when I started my business.

In my first job after high school, I was earning R175 a month. Was I happy with the salary? No, I was not. But at least I had the opportunity for a start in life.

If the bargaining chamber laws applied at the time I was starting my (hair-care products) business, I was not going to make it.

There was no way I was going to be able to compete with the likes of Unilever or Colgate when it came to paying salaries.

Shouldn’t the state do its part to protect vulnerable workers from exploitative practices?

Of course it must. That is why we encourage employees to join trade unions and to fight for their rights.

We are saying, though, that adults should be allowed to enter into contracts they are able to live with.

It is also not just about money. It is about dignity.

We have to address the massive social challenges that come with youth unemployment, such as drug abuse and crime.

I don’t want to live in a society where you have kids who grow up to be 10 or 14 years old, without ever once seeing their parent go to work.

Doing this case is better than having to invest money in rehabilitation programmes to correct all these social ills.

But what must government do to protect workers from cowboy employers?

Government must invest in education and create full employment. When everybody

is educated and skilled it becomes an employees’ market.

They can demand higher salaries. Every employer will know that if they don’t take

care of their employees, their employees can take up a job next door.

Right now, however, it is an employers’ market because of the scarcity of skills.

Should there be no protection against people being turned into wage slaves?

What is a wage slave? What is a decent job? Imagine you are 24 and have never worked in your life and you are looking for work.

A businessman in your township starts something and offers you R4?000 when the minimum wage in the sector is R6?000.

Then government closes the business down because the employer is paying less than the bargaining council agreed to. How would you feel How would you feel about that government?

Should employers who claim they cannot afford the minimum wages be made to disclose their revenue?

No. What for? What purpose will it serve?

If I cannot afford to pay you what you want and you believe you deserve better, you can always go.

If I can afford it and I do not want to let you go, I do not need legislation to make me

pay you what I think you are worth. The employer can choose to disclose if he wants to.

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