Tag Archive | minister oliphant

Labour : nobody at top biting the bullet

Parliamentary labour committee gives hint…..

mildred-oliphantLabour Minister Mildred Oliphant said in her budget vote speech that she would meet with the trade union leadership to discuss the “adversarial nature” of the country’s industrial relations and explore ways to arrest the “potential threat” to the system of collective bargaining. With the Nedlac process under scrutiny, South Africa heads towards an election with a Parliament not quite sure what is really happening.

Meanwhile, after months of painstaking negotiations and re-drafting of South Africa’s new labour laws and with the amendments under the Labour Relations Act nearing finalisation and adoption, suddenly an adversarial attitude was also adopted by the governing alliance members over contentious and much argued about issues such as labour broking.

So, with attitudes hardening, business has again lost track of indicators regarding government’s views on labour matters. A swing to the left was previously the concern but as political commentators now note, a swing to the nationalistic right is even more worrying.

What relevance then her speech?

Minister Oliphant  also said in her address that her department would host a labour relations indaba to enable stakeholders and role-players to engage regarding the future of collective bargaining in South Africa but a reading of recent parliamentary views stated by ANC MPs would change the ground rules for such an engagement yet again. Quite clearly, with an election forthcoming, the pack of cards has suddenly been thrown into the air. Oliphant continued…….

“We want to generate greater interests and concerns of social partners in respect of labour relations conflict, and identify measures to strengthen labour relations and dialogue to achieve labour market stability and peace,”  adding that the department of labour (DoL) was working closely with NEDLAC and the CCMA to achieve this.

Smoky glass

The minister noted that her budget vote took place at a critical time, when South Africa was entering the collective bargaining season, which seemed a pretty pointless thing to say and then compounded the totally inert contribution by adding that “Looking at the year ahead, that all stakeholders will  have to work together to achieve a peaceful environment in labour relations and collective bargaining.”

Finance waves a finger at somebody

pravon gordhanShortly afterwards when introducing the debate on his budget vote in the National Assembly, finance minister Pravin Gordhan said South Africa “was at a cross-roads over renewed labour unrest in the mining sector” and something needed to be done or the country would lose jobs and investor confidence, and companies would close. ‘

In his medium term budget statement, he was at pains to re-assure the investing community that budget deficits were under control and that SA was walking the big talk. But there was no reference to the big issue. A bloated public service, way out of proportion to the size of the community in South Africa, has a  pay rise coming.  This is more than a bump in the road head, it massive pothole to be negotiated.

“Concerted action by organised labour, business, civic leaders, and government is needed in the coming months , said the minister. “There is no role for complacency here”, he warned. Gordhan reiterated that labour unrest and stoppages at mines contributed “to much of the weaker economic performance in 2012”, which was compounded by job growth of only one percent.

“We are all in this together. If we do not resolve our labour relations challenges we will be losers. We will see deteriorating confidence, job losses, and business failures.”

Finding sensible solutions, Gordhan said, to the labour strife would benefit all. “But if we find a balanced, fair, socially responsible solution, we all stand to gain and we will see higher investment, higher employment, and improvements in living conditions. This is the choice that lies before us.”

Misfire, or was it?

zuma2Then spoke President Zuma in a special extra parliamentary speech from Pretoria, who also called on mining participants in the wage talks to play a stronger role, saying government could not take sides in the turf war between unions. His continued reference to the minister of finance’s speech earlier in Parliament was the anchor point of what he had to say, which it turned out to be very little.

In the meanwhile, minister in the presidency responsible for performance monitoring and evaluation, Collins Chabane, told parliamentarians in his budget vote speech that the National Development Plan (NDP), endorsed by COSATU or not, would form the basis of strategic framework for the next five years for government focus, the NDP forming the basis of nearly twenty budget votes speeches in Parliament in the last three weeks.

The apparent focus by government on the NDP and COSATU’s renewed platform of referring back to the Freedom Charter, was also evident during a speech by Trevor Manuel, minister of planning and one of the main architects of the NDP, who told his audience “We should guard against be waylaid by all manner of self-serving agendas that direct us away from building the desirable plan”.

VaviMeanwhile, Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of COSATU, told his audience, “Four out of ten people are unemployed and 19 years after democracy, we have become the protest centre of the world, a country still far from achieving the economic demands of the Freedom Charter.” He told his audience there was a lot to celebrate but all COSATU wanted was for the wealth of the country to be shared.

No mention of the NDP. Nobody stepping to the footplate.

To-ing and fro-ing on labour issues appears to be average activity for politicians, including the President, and at the moment, with nobody sticking their heads over the parapet, Parliament heads towards an election with business sitting in a vacuum and the international rating bodies not quite are what we are up to .

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