Controversial labour laws still on table
Johannesburg - Proposed amendments to South Africa's labour laws have not been finalised, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Thursday.
"The proposed amendments are still on the table," she said at the 24th annual labour law conference at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.
She was referring to four amendment bills initiated when Jimmy Manyi was director general of her department. Manyi has since been appointed head of the Government Communication and Information Services.
"Nedlac [the National Economic Development and Labour Council] is still in negotiations and we appreciate that all parties have come on board," said Oliphant.
The four bills under review are the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, Employment Services Bill, Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the Employment Equity Amendment Bill.
Oliphant said the proposed Employment Equity Amendment Bill had "caused a lot of noise".
She said employment equity should be contextual, linked to the demographic makeup of a particular region.
This appeared to be a response to comments made by Manyi on the proposed bill in a Kyknet interview in March last year. In the interview, he said there was an "oversupply" of coloureds in the Western Cape.
Oliphant also touched on the controversial issue of labour brokers: "Let me clarify, labour brokers do not create jobs, but fulfil [existing] vacancies..."
It was a cause for concern when employers paid these brokers directly to the disadvantage of the employee. The workers do not get what they are entitled to, she said.
Oliphant said workplace interests should be understood against the backdrop of the country's unemployment figures.
At the end of the first quarter of this year, more than 4.3 million South Africans were unemployed. Some 2.8 million of these had been unemployed for more than a year.
The majority of unemployed South Africans were aged between 25 and 35 and had few skills.
"The productive sectors of our economy, such as the youth, are the ones that constitute the army of the unemployed.
"Of course I do not need to tell you the dire consequences of this situation insofar as the objective of reconstruction and development in South Africa," she said.
Tensions between this and the impact of the recession on business highlighted the importance of labour law and mechanisms for negotiation.
Oliphant appealed for workers and employers to work together towards the ideal of "justice" in the workplace.