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Sender: owner-afrlabor@acuvax.acu.edu
To: afrlabor@acuvax.acu.edu
From: nyembe1@law.und.ac.za (NKOSIKHULULE NYEMBEZI : LAW-PG)
Reply-To: AFRLABOR@acuvax.acu.edu
Subject: South Africa's Bill on Labour Relation
Date: Mon, 1 May 1995 22:40:13 GMT
Message-ID: <nyembe1.188.2FA5634D@law.und.ac.za>

South Africa's Bill on Labour Relations

From Nkosikhulule Nyembezi
1 May 1995

The workers of South Africa celebrated the first year of the new democracy and the first May Day under a new government. The proposed Bill on Labour Relations is perhaps one important achievement of the workers because once it is passed, it will provide workers with rights and protection.

There are however some issues that have been criticised by the labour movement as the short-coming in the Bill. Some of these issues relate to;

i) Centralised Bargaining
ii) Right to strike
iii) Work place Forums

Centralised Bargaining

The Bill states that is encourages Centralised Bargaining. It states that for workers to get this right they must use power and in this context it means strikes. The labour movement has criticised this and the question posed is, why should the workers strike to get what they are told they can get? It is argued that President Mandela has appealed to workers to minimise unnecessary strikes and yet the Bill encourages the use of that weapon unnecessarily by not compelling the employers to centralised bargaining.

There are some trade unions that have been fighting for this right for years but to no vail. The NEF signed an agreement on voluntary centralised bargaining. The assessment of the effect of the agreement shows that there is nothing that happened after that. It can be said that the agreement went into a dustbin! The labour movement is arguing that if the employers do not want to recognise centralised bargaining voluntarily, they must be compelled by law.

Right to strike

The Bill goes a long way to grant workers the right to strike. It protects them against dismissals. It allows picketing and other forms of action. This is all welcomed by the labour movement. The Bill attracts criticism in that it does not ban scab labour. The labour movements has noted that most violence during strikes can be attributed to the presence of scabs (black legs) during the strikes.

The labour movement has realised that employers do not want workers to be given the right to strike because it scares them and that is why they pay lip service to it. The labour movement is against the limitation of this right. There has been a caution however against those who misuse this important weapon of the struggle. COSATU is committed in ensuring that the union does not get discredited.

When workers go on strike, they must do so in a manner that is peaceful, procedural and must consult with the community to get support. There are some who now posses a 'new found militancy' who are misusing this weapon. The organisation states that while it understands the frustration of the workers, it cannot condone the use of violence, hostage taking and other means that bother the law. This will discredit the organisation and in that way it will loose support of the people.

In 1993, COSATU marched to the World Trade Centre against the inclusion the lock-out provision in the interim constitution. As a result of that, while it is not given as a right, it is there in the constitution. The labour movement is determined in ensuring that lock-out does not get included in the final constitution as a right of the employers. COSATU is campaigning to get the support of the community at large on this matter and the general view is that it will rather be limited and regulated in the Labour Relations Act rather than have it in the constitution. Any move to allow its inclusion in the constitution is seen as giving the employers a ' loaded unlicensed gun'. Also it COSATU says that if the employers are using this facility, there must be no scabs. In other words, if the workers are out, nobody must go inside.

Workplace Forums

For many years, COSATU has been fighting for workplace democracy, consultation, sharing of information and other related issues. The workers have refused to accept the demands of the workers. Because employers refuse, the Bill states that there must be se paration of the union shop stewards committee and the workplace forum. This proposal is opposed by COSATU. Instead the union is advocating that the shop steward committee must be the workplace forum and that the workers will decide which issues go for bargaining or the forum will do so for the workers. COSATU is insisting that the workers know what they want to consult or be consulted on, what to share for joint decision-making and who should represent the workers.

These issues are still under discussions and in the light of the progress registered so far, there is hope that progress will come out soon. The unity of workers is essential at this stage in order to be able to have a common approach on a number of issues.


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