From: firstname.lastname@example.org (NKOSIKHULULE NYEMBEZI : LAW-PG)
Subject: South Africa's Bill on Labour Relation
Date: Mon, 1 May 1995 22:40:13 GMT
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
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.
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.