Tag Archive | LRA

Essential Services Committee remains underfunded

Essential Services agreements for crises….

meeting graphicThe Essential Services Committee (ESC), made up of part-time appointments and administered by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) but essentially separated from it in terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), told the Parliamentary Committee on Labour that it was vastly underfunded to undertake its work on a national scale.

To make his point, ESC’s chairperson, Adv Luvuyo Bono, said he had to pay from his own pocket a portion of his cell phone bill that related to ESC business and only had a totally out of date, second-hand laptop. It was clear throughout the meeting that ESC and CCMA were at odds with each other on financial issues.

CCMA funded but not controlled

The parent body, the CCMA, is the country’s recognised dispute resolution body established in terms of the LRA.   Like ESC, the CCMA is an independent body, does not belong to and is not controlled by any political party, trade union or business.   It “houses” the ESC and attends to the accounting but the work of the ESC is independent of and totally separated by law from the CCMA.

One independent body housing another independent function has clearly led to target plan and budgeting confusion, parliamentarians eventually concluded.

The ESC, as a separate function, conducts investigations and concludes agreements on those groups of employees who can be described as essential services, a critical role inasmuch that their determinations decide which services that, if interrupted, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population.

Constitutional rights always observed

No strikes or lock-outs are permitted in the case of promulgated essential services but in terms of not onlyfloods the Constitution but also the LRA, the issue of  “rights” still apply. ESC are obliged to refer disputes on events involving essential services and the “rights” involved to the CCMA for conciliation and arbitration.

Advocate Bono, the current chairperson of ESC, told Parliament that minimum service agreements (MSAs) were set for the defined essential services, detailing how many persons could go on strike if a strike during an event such as an emergency were to occur.

Out in the open

The work of the ESC has been going on for many years, MPs were told, but never before had the grouping been invited to present separately to Parliament, which invitation had been made by members of the opposition party. CCMA had merely reported on the financing of the ESC but not its work.

Adv BonoAdv. Bono told parliamentarians that, originally, essential services were defined as the police services, the defence force and parliamentary services but more recently  MSAs for municipal traffic services; municipal health; water services; some airport services; nursing including private nursing: blood transfusion and fire-fighting have been and more recently some private old age homes.

No regional coverage

Adv Bono said his entire function was run by only nine people with no regional outreach ability and there was a lack of understanding by the CCMA on what the ESC was and how it should be administered.  Employees, board members and himself were appointed by NEDLAC and were not full time public servants.

In answer to questions by MPs, Adv Bono admitted that of 278 municipalities ESC could only plan to deal with 75 of them in terms of MSAs required. He confirmed that it had been decided by the Minister not to include education. Electricity services were also not at ESC’s radar, he confirmed in answer to a question by MPs on load shedding, should there be an Eskom strike.

However, to vastly increase the coverage of the ESC and its work nationally was too much to expect with the current structure of ESC and its current budget.

Just tables, chairs, rent and part time fees.

Whilst Adv. Bono was clearly complaining that ESC was underfunded, he said his plans and targets were also constrained because help on administration services and office accommodation that came from CCMA were particularly limited. They were, however, separated by law in terms of the LRA and such a system was not really workable.

CCMA’s director, Nerine Kahn, told MPs that ESC’s budget had increased by 140% in the past three years and R3.8m was what the ESC had requested, which they got for what they said they could undertake.  In 2012, the budget was less than R1m. She could not comment on the work of the ESC, however, and its intentions.

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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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Labour Relations Act changes passed

LRA Bill through Parliament

Mildred OliphantThe Labour Relations Amendment (LRA) Bill has now been passed by the National Assembly, thus confirming the ambition of Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, to have this and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill (BCEA) as signed-off legislation before the last session of Parliament of the present government. The Bill received the concurrence from the NCOP, in this case the matter being considered a formality although the select committee involved called for submissions.

Two down, two to go and more to come

This leaves the two equity labour laws, the Employment Services Bill and the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, as part of four Bills approved by the Nedlac process and designed by the department of labour (DOL) to overhaul labour legislation in South Africa, to be finally approved in the last session.

The LRA changes in the meanwhile will enable legislation to address, DOL says, “a number of unfair labour practices” with minister Oliphant telling the House that the Bill now passed “will bring the provisions relating to child labour in line with international standards and will strengthen the mechanisms for enforcement of basic conditions of employment, including wages.”

Ballots and part timers

The new Act will alter the anchor Labour Relations Act (1995) to include a number of major amendments including the facilitation of the granting of organisational rights to trade unions that are “sufficiently representative” and, in addition, will require a trade union or any employers’ organisation to conduct a ballot prior to calling a strike or lock-out.

The new provisions will strengthen the status of picketing rules and agreements and in many instances the powers of the labour court are clarified. They will also determine and outline minimum service conditions deal with circumstances involving workers placed by temporary employment services, regulates on the employment of fixed-term contracts and deals with part-time employees earning below an earnings threshold.

UIF also involved

DOL has also tabled amendments to Unemployment Insurance Act to include foreign workers and public servants as well as to amend benefits by extending the period of payment of benefits to the contributor from eight months to twelve months and also extending the period in which a contributor can lodge a claim from the current six months to twelve months. Nomination of beneficiaries for death benefits will be possible and the fund itself will be allowed to finance its own employment promotion projects.

Under the occupational health aspect of DOL’s mandate, a Bill has been promised on the issue of noise pollution levels in the factory environment.

previous articles on this subject
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/parliament-delays-process-on-labour-relations-bill/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//education/employment-services-bill-will-promote-jobs-and-free-employment-services/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//bee/dates-for-new-labour-law-amendments-outlined/

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