SA’s labour flexibility is its downfall – Cosatu

2010-11-13 11:03

The growing number of South Africans who were unemployed or unable to sustain themselves on their salaries was largely a sign of “exploitative flexibility” in the local labour market, Cosatu said today.

“The labour market is characterised by a large number of unemployed workers ready to accept any job in almost any condition at any rate per hour,” said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Phelane.

“Casualisation of workers is on the increase. Outsourcing and the use of labour brokers is widespread. These are signs of exploitative flexibility,” he said.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille yesterday said it was Cosatu’s inflexible approach to labour legislation that was undermining the chances of young South Africans to find jobs. She said the government would not be able to emulate the growth performance of Bric (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries until it stood up to Cosatu.

Zille referred to factory workers who lost their jobs in Newcastle after factories in the area were forced to close because they could no longer pay the statutory minimum wage. “The workers were angry because they would rather earn less than the minimum wage than live in absolute poverty without any wage whatsoever,” she said.

Zille said the irony of workers and employees uniting against unnecessary job losses “must have been lost on Cosatu, which continues to support inflexible labour legislation regardless”.

Phelane, however, said job losses and labour problems were largely due to too much flexibility.

“Cosatu is fighting to reverse this seemingly becoming popular trend and standard practice by employers/would be employers in this country,” he said.

He said “waving a magic wand supposed to deregulate the labour market” would not remedy the situation.

“It is about time Ms Zille learnt that the world of information technology doesn’t thrive through sheltered markets guaranteeing endless reservoirs of cheap labour, but survives on continuous innovation.”

Additionally, Cosatu would not support any national youth wage subsidy, but would rather direct money towards “public employment creation”.

“In a number of cases, wage subsidies tended to provide temporary relief to unemployment, which is what we seek not for the wretched millions of underemployed and unemployed in this country,” Phelane said.

He said the set-up of the country’s industrial structure, as well as foreign ownership, would need to be addressed to see changes in the labour market.

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