Tag Archive | Labour Relations Act

Labour relations bill rejected

LRA amendment on strike violence rejected….

ian ollisThe Portfolio Committee on Labour has rejected a Private Member’s Bill, the Labour Relations Amendment Bill proposed by Shadow Minister of Labour, Ian Ollis, to make provision for trade unions to be accountable in the event of violence, destruction of property and intimidation by union members during a protected strike.

The background to the Bill noted that “statistics from the protest action in the metal and engineering sector showed that in the first two weeks of that strike, 246 cases of intimidation, 50 violent ‘incidents’ and 85 cases of vandalism were recorded.

Duty to take reasonable steps

“The Bill seeks to provide a statutory duty on trade unions to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to persons and property within the Act”, said Ian Ollis MP, when tabling the Bill noting that his Bill had been stalled since 2010.

COSATU spokesperson Patrick Craven at the time responded with the statement that “COSATU will campaign relentlessly, thorough the alliance, in Parliament, at the Constitutional court and in the streets, to ensure that such a law is defeated.”\

Cabinet says we have the tools

Meanwhile, when President Zuma addressed the House in his State of Nation Address he condemned violence associated with strikes but said, “We have enough instruments in our labour relations machinery to resolve labour disputes.”

When presenting the Bill to Parliament in the current session, Ian Ollis said that the Bill could specify penalties, but also it envisaged a situation where the Labour Court is given permission to order parties, if a strike turned violent, to arbitration.

The Department of Labour (DoL) distanced itself from the Bill, Director-General, Thobile Lamati sayingThobile Lamati that these issues that were being addressed at NEDLAC level.

As a result of the meeting, a further Labour Portfolio Committee meeting heard the advice of Parliamentary Legal Adviser, Ms Noluthando Mpikashe, who told the Committee that although the Bill has no constitutional defects, existing legislation catered for all its contents.   She cited the Gatherings Act (Section 11) as a satisfactory answer and that the proposed Bill was pre-empting the NEDLAC deliberations.

Back to Marikana

Ollis responded that the Bill simply proposed that unions be held accountable for the conduct of their members during strike action. This will ensure not only accountability, but safety of the non-striking workers and added that “had the Bill been in place, lives would have been saved at Marikana.”

He complained “The Gatherings Act does not regulate any behaviour outside an approved gathering. The Bill before the Committee speaks to actions resulting from unapproved gatherings. The Bill also calls for the granting of permission to the Labour Court to force arbitration once a strike had turned violent,” he said.

He also complained in previous meetings that that the Opposition did not have a voice in NEDLAC. It could not give any input. The duty of the Opposition was to propose new ideas with regard to legislation, and the only way to reach NEDLAC was through the Portfolio Committee.

Bill voted out

Chairperson Yengeni rejected totally the claim that Opposition parties could not address NEDLAC directly. She said there were channels available to engage any entity of government.  She thanked Shadow Minister Ollis for his Bill and all the work that had gone into it but said “When the NEDLAC process is complete, the Committee will be the wiser”. Using its majority, ANC MPs rejected the Bill in its totality, the IFP abstaining.

Chairperson Lumka Yengeni stated afterwards, “The Bill is rejected by the Committee as it is not raising anything new. All its contents are captured in the Regulation of Gatherings Act,” she said. “The Department of Labour is on top of the situation”, she added.

Shadow Minister Ollis said, “The violence will continue. Therefore the current platform is inadequate.”

Other articles in this category or as background
Parliament delays process on Labour Relations Bill – ParlyReportSA
Muscle may be added to LRA – ParlyReportSA

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Muscle may be added to LRA

Feature article….

BS000318LRA needs beefing up, says DA ….

A political confrontation is no doubt about to occur and possibly street unrest regarding the parliamentary notice now gazetted tabling a Bill proposing changes to the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

It also proposes empowering  labour courts to declare the cessation of a protected strike or to refer the protected strike for arbitration in the event of riot damage.

Public comment to Parliament was allowable until December 7 on the Labour Relations Amendment Bill PMB2-2014, which DA MP, Ian Ollis, intends introducing a private member’s bill.

Responsibility for violence

The opening wording of the gazetted notice stated that notice of an intention to “amend the Labour Relations Act (No. 6 of 1995) to make provision for trade unions to be accountable in the event of violence, destruction of property and intimidation by union members during a protected strike, and comments are requested.”

The background to the Bill notes that “statistics from recent protest action in the metal and engineering sector show that in the first two weeks of the strike, 246 cases of intimidation, 50 violent ‘incidents’ and 85 cases of vandalism were recorded.”

Views of Cosatu

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said, in response to DA statements issued as result of the gazette being published, “COSATU will campaign relentlessly, thorough the alliance, in Parliament, at the Constitutional court and in the streets, to ensure that such a law is defeated.”

By “alliance”, Craven is presumably referring to factors such as whether ANC MPs will join ranks and vote against the Bill at portfolio committee level when introduced.   This meeting will not occur until at least February and March 2015.

It is to be noted that as a private member’s Bill, this Bill is not tabled by the minister of labour, nor is associated in any way to any draft or proposal emanating from the department of labour.

How to strike properly

 The Bill, as proposed, provides for the accountability of trade unions in the event of violence, destruction to property and intimidation by union members during a protected strike.  The legislation also requires unions to educate workers regarding violence and on labour law procedures before strikes and by law unions are to provide marshals for crowd control who have been

ian ollisOllis, who is shadow minister for labour, says that his Bill also proposes that “courts would be empowered to stop a strike that is  properly trained for such and “to prevent criminals infiltrating union ranks”.excessively violent by forcing the parties into arbitration, to declare a violent strike as unprotected and to award damages against unions that have not implemented  such processes.

Bill not needed

The proposals also state that courts would be empowered to award damages against unions that have not implemented the law’s required staff education and crowd marshal training.

Cosatu flatly rejects the Bill. Says Craven, “Cosatu has consistently opposed violence, intimidation and damage to property during strikes and demonstrations, all of which are offences under existing laws and therefore require no new law to deal with them.”

The difficulty is holding unions to account for violence, a matter which is being attempted to be defined by Ollis, outsiders asking whether laws passed by Parliament are the answer or the problem.

There also appears to be two arguments, or camps of thought, on violence associated with strike action in South Africa.  Many commentators and a wealth of labour lawyers and have pronounced upon these arguments and no doubt they will emerge in Parliament in more detail should the Bill get to the point of being debated.

Two views

The points seem to be the extent to which community poverty and frustration extend into the situation, whether the answer to solve violence exists in the workplace and whether the ability of any law to criminalise contraventions of labour relations tenets can work and if this is the answer.

The kind of frustration that is evident become obvious, as media reported, when a union member exclaimed during the NUMSA metalworkers strike, “If we settle the strike and we get back to work we can save our company and we won’t lose our houses and our cars.   Why on earth would we go to court and start fighting again, risk everything, to get maybe a little bit of money compared to losing all our belongings?” he asked.  This point is raised by Ollis.

But damage to property is the least of the problems, says UCT’s humanities dean, Sakhela Buhlungu, in a speech in Cape Town recently. “The real thing is the loss of lives. With damages, in fact the beneficiaries, if this Bill goes through, will be the people who own property.   It is the poor people who will be caught in the crossfire because they are viewed as  scabbing. How do you compensate those people?  Do you say the unions must pay for lost lives?  You can’t quantify that”, she told her audience.

Poverty driven

Clearly the violence is well outside the arena of whether collective bargaining is working or not but the one view is that it is another manifestation of community frustration amongst those living below the breadline.

Buhlungu said to her audience, “Look at domestic violence; it is out of control.  Look at child rape; it is out of control.  Look at violence by the police against the public; it is out of control.  Violence is so pervasive that, in fact, it would be a surprise if a strike were not violent.”   Clearly, she said, the passing of laws will not resolve such issues.

On the same side of the coin also is the pragmatic view noted by Graeme Simpson, renowned labour writer of many years who in 1994, the year of independence, wrote, “The potential of the workplace as an agency for social change is severely under-utilised, and the narrowly conceived strategies to insulate industrial relations thus actively undermine the potential for relative peace (in the workplace).”

In the context of the violent strikes at that time (Checkers etc), Simpson said, “The vision of most employers has remained rather conservatively limited to futile attempts to insulate or protect the workplace from encroaching violence, rather than engaging in any way with the origins of the problem beyond the factory gates.”

Township stress

Simpson noted that research conducted then by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation had shown that community-based violence (whether political or criminal) and the trauma associated with victimisation and stress resulting from potential or indirect victimisation, had the effect of broadly polluting workplace relationships.

There is a vital need – with attendant advantages – for business and trade union leaders, said Simpson, to engage jointly in interactive planning to harness the potential of the working environment as a proactive arena of peaceful social change, whilst simultaneously addressing the concrete needs of the most victimised township communities in general.

In the meanwhile the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation has evolved a four-pronged approach, it says on its current website, for dealing with the impact of violence on industrial relations. These programmes include the idea that the workplace is a place where violence-related trauma can be treated and training must be given to support and counsel traumatised co-workers.

Bigger business role

Communication, says the Centre, to generate information and sensitivity to the shared problems of violence and their influence on industrial relations is much required and importantly all companies should engage in community development and upliftment involving violence monitoring and conflict resolution processes beyond the shop-floor.

Also the Centre sees as an imperative that there have to be more community development initiatives from all businesses with workforces where worker or community representatives are party to decisions on allocating resources for corporate social upliftment programmes.

The second camp of thought clearly see Marikana as a Rubicon that was crossed which has so totally changed the labour environment that labour courts must have more powers to administer their decisions and that it is the unions that must change. The Bill proposes changes by criminalising failure to adhere to such amendments to the Labour Relations Act or at least making perpetrators culpable. Enough is enough, is the thought pattern.

Said Ollis in a DA statement as the Bill was tabled in Parliament by the Speaker, “A law is needed to ensure that unions be held responsible for all conduct that could potentially cause foreseeable damage to property, result in injury or loss of life.”

“Members of the public and business owners should thus exercise their rights and hold unions accountable for damage to property resulting from strike action,” he concluded.

Round the corner from Parliament, JP Smith, who is responsible for safety and security on the Cape Town mayoral committee said angrily a week or so ago, when accounting for all the damage done by strikers was being accounted for, whether by union members, just frustrated poor people or Cape skollies, “It is about highlighting the individuals, prosecuting them, exposing them to the media. What we need is for actions to have consequences for individuals.”

President’s response

Meanwhile, when speaking in Parliament, President Zuma did indeed condemn the violence associated with the Numsa strike but he gave no indication that concern about violence would result in fundamental changes to policy or legislation, as proposed by Ollis.

“We have enough instruments in our labour relations machinery to resolve labour disputes,” said Zuma to the National Assembly.

According to Patrick Craven of Cosatu, the “draconian principle” of criminalizing unions by default ignores the fact that employers are also at fault and he sees the threat to award financial damages against a union as having the potential to bankrupt unions and force them to disband, “which is surely what the DA, and its friends in business, want”, he added.

Most discount this argument as an exaggeration although it might appeal to Craven’s own audience.

COSATU needs collective bargaining

Craven added that in Cosatu’s view by empowering courts to force employers and unions into arbitration where strikes are excessively violent, or declare such a strike unprotected “would give the state unparalleled power to undermine collective bargaining and the basic human right to withdraw one’s labour.”

The department of labour recently released its Annual Industrial Action Report and this makes for compelling reading, says Johan Botes, director at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, who no doubt will make submissions to Parliament on the subject of the new Bill.

“Most worrying,” notes Botes “is the fact that the percentage of unprotected strikes has increased from 2012 to 2013.   The report indicates that during 2012, 54% of strikes were protected whilst this number fell by 6% in 2013.”

“This may suggest a number of troublesome issues, including lack of regard for the law or the consequences of unlawful conduct, growing frustration and antipathy towards employers, or further support for the view that our collective bargaining processes and (SA labour) practices are in dire need of an overhaul.”

More jobs lost

Botes says it also worrisome that large groups of employees are being exposed to dismissal as result of their participation in unprotected industrial action whereas focus surely ought to be on how to save jobs and limit or prevent unnecessary dismissals.”

“The need for greater compliance with legal requirements before embarking on industrial action should be more emphasized, when considering the alarming reports of other unlawful activities connected with strikes, whether protected or unprotected, and which activities include assault, intimidation and causing damage to property,” he notes.

The ANC, as a party or alliance, has not made its views known at this stage on the Bill, nor any stance to be adopted by its party whips.
Ollis of the DA is convinced that Parliament must pass such an amendment to the LRA “where action could result in injury or loss of life”, thus ratcheting the parliamentary argument up a notch or two.

Fall back

Last word goes to the background of the Bill itself which states, “Though the Regulation of Gatherings Act 1993 the law imposes restrictions and prohibitions upon gatherings and demonstrations that cause “riot damage” to third parties, the current provisions within the legislation fail to address instances where damage caused to persons and property by strikers in the course of promoting the objects of the strike and which does not necessarily occur within the structures of a gathering or demonstration.”

Ollis says, “Indeed, harm caused by strikers often occurs underhandedly at strike-breakers’ homes and as strike participants move to and from strike locations – violence and damage to persons and property therefore occurring outside the formal strictures of a sanctioned strike or gathering, yet acting in furtherance of union-supported collective action.”

He concludes, “This Bill thus seeks to provide a statutory duty on trade unions to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to persons and property within the Act.”
Other articles in this category or as background
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/labour/labour-committee-turns-away-strikes/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/labour/labour-relations-act-changes-passed/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/bee/rumblings-in-labour-circles-on-bee/

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Employment equity bill criminalises offenders

Turnover linked penalties….

Fines according to turnover are now proposed for equity employment breaches, the department of labour (DOL) having now briefed Parliament on the Employment Equity Act (EEA) Amendment Bill, which was tabled during the last session of Parliament and which incorporates such proposals.

The new fines, which according to DOL have been unrevised for a number of years, are linked as before in the same way to breaches in employment equity in terms of the Employment Equity Act but have now been linked to the balance sheet, meaning  major increases in the size of penalty for medium and big business in the case of departure, such being in terms of  decisions made on the recommendation of DOL inspectors.

Hearings before Parliament from business were expected to be vociferous in their response and indeed so far have been. Business and industry have been facing a raft of new and more radical amendments to existing labour laws, indicating both a move from the voluntary nature of BEE participation through charters to a legislative background and criminalisation if labour policy is not met or purposefully avoided.

A whole package of law

The briefing of this, the fourth of the new labour laws following the Employment Services Bill, was presented to Parliament by the department’s equity director, Ntsoaki Mamashela.   The Labour Relations Amendment Bill, the Employment Services Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill have all been endorsed by the Nedlac process, following approval by cabinet; the Labour Relations Act changes failing to pass in the last parliamentary session due to lack of a quorum but subsequently now approved and to become law.

Ms Mamashela assured business that they had “nothing to fear” if they followed the basic rules which were now well-known throughout the country. The proposed amendments demand that the proportions of demographics on an employer’s staff role reflect the demographics of the territory in which the business or industry operates and apply to companies with 150 employees or more.

Mirroring your location

The Bill makes it quite clear that the proposals refer to “black” people amongst  designated groups and also states unambiguously “where under representation of people from designated groups has been identified by the analysis, the numerical goals to achieve the equitable representation of suitably qualified people from designated groups within each occupational [category and] level in the workforce, the timetable within which this is to be achieved, and the strategies intended to achieve those goals are not met”, the Bill states, then the minister may apply to the labour court for a fine to be imposed.

The fines are extensive, particularly where previous convictions are concerned, and are capped at nearly R3m. The department of labour  is also, the proposals state, given the right to refer those cases who have not made returns, or made false returns in respect of their employment equity registers, directly to the labour courts.

The results of public hearings will first be summated and responded to by the department and then debated by the portfolio committee.

Refer previous articles in this category
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/business-and-government-miles-apart-on-labour-laws/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/labour-nobody-at-top-biting-the-bullet/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/parliament-delays-process-on-labour-relations-bill/

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Parliament delays process on Labour Relations Bill

Labour Relations Bill held up by the rule book….

In what might be just a technical delay on the passage of the Labour Relations Bill employed by the opposition party, Parliament now goes into winter recess without the last minute stand by ANC labour portfolio committee members on amendments to the Labour Relations Act being carried through into law at this point. For such an important debate in terms of national interest, it was firstly an embarrassment to the majority party but secondly a victory for parliamentary procedure and the application of due parliamentary process.

A late sitting on the last day of this session of Parliament, the second of 2013, there were insufficient MPs present to reach a quorum of 201 members voting, the ANC alliance having 266 votes available.    However, no more than 120 of the ANC arrived on the second occasions when the vote was put to the house, presumably having already left Cape Town, thus allowing opposition DA members to absent themselves to maintain a number lesser than the quorum and thus frustrate the Bill’s passage.

Clearly the lack ANC party discipline is evident, giving further rise to the argument that the ANC Chief Whip’s position may be under debate. The Bill now goes forward to the next session and will referred back to the portfolio committee on labour in the next session  for re-submission.

Points of argument

One of the key elements originally included in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill was the Nedlac-agreed principle, backed by the department of labour, that compulsory strike balloting procedures should be introduced. This was not accepted by the portfolio committee, chaired by ANC MP Mamagase Nchabeleng.

The opposition have also voted for but were over-ruled on sections proposed that allow unions and employers to have to debate on thresholds of representation for unions to gain a presence in a specific workplace or sector; the repeal of the section allowing for closed-shop agreements; and amendments to the section that allow for the extension of bargaining council agreements to parties that were not part of the bargaining process.

Looking back on 2013 so far

From an overall parliamentary viewpoint, the budget voting procedure having been attended to by President Zuma in the National Assembly and all 27 government departments, the various state owned utilities and financial development bodies have reported on their progress to Parliament on the third and final quarters of the last financial year.
In actual fact they are now busy spending the current financial year’s money and Parliament in the next session, starting mid-winter, will see progress towards the medium term budget review and the consequent oversight on the 2013/4 spend to date, with progress towards earlier stated targets.

Watching how the money goes

This is where the department of performance monitoring and evaluation under Collins Chabane of the President’s Office will be able to indicate more clearly to Parliament, charged with the task of oversight, how things are going. At this stage matters will only be made slightly easier for them with the very small amount of comparative figures to date since they took up office.

What did become evident during this last monitored session of Parliament was how massive the public service has become in South Africa and how it has grown.   In fact some economists give the opinion that any growth in the country is purely reflected by the fact that the public service in South Africa has grown in similar proportion and possibly by the same amount.

Presidential Review now to hand on SOE’s

The quantity of regulatory boards were hardly able to find reporting time in the parliamentary meeting schedule and the fact that the Presidential Review Committee on state owned entities has recommended that a further proposed council be structured so all SOEs are placed under one umbrella, thus creating one more entity to fund with salaries, is worrisome.

But the word “bloated” is too easy to use. Perhaps in these difficult times, as was found in China, it may be good to provide additional jobs and provide food in many homes in tough times but the problem for South Africa remains work ethic and performance, or translated into business terms – getting value for money.

Whilst Collins Chabane may be able to evaluate whole departments against targets set and call out numbers to record performance, the record of teachers not in their classrooms teaching and policeman not in the street policing, is depressing.

Jobs improvement the key

However, perhaps it is too early to make the call that things are not working. With so many global uncertainties working against South Africa and with so many infrastructure spend programmes in place and only beginning, the winter doom and gloom story is perhaps an easily spread infection.

However, without doubt it is the year in which it will become evident if South Africa has turned the corner on the jobs issue and whether its big spending programmes can be both handled and managed properly. The opposition maintain that with the introduction of the new Labour Relations Act amendments, the jobs situation will not improve.

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Justice, constitutional, Labour, Land,Agriculture, Mining, beneficiation, Trade & Industry0 Comments


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