COSATU: Legislation – just how worker friendly is it?

Since 1994, government has passed many new laws and amended old ones. Employers regard many of them as being too 'worker friendly'. What do you say?

LRA – a view from the ground

The Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 has been operating for eight years now. Recently amended, Rolly Xipu*, spoke to two shop stewards for their views on where the stumbling blocks still are.

Since 1995, the LRA has brought new challenges to local organisers and shop stewards especially in the area of unfair dismissal for alleged misconduct. Section 191 deals with unfair dismissal.

It is here where most of the organisers' and shop stewards' time is spent in arbitrations at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the Engineering Bargaining Council's Centre for Dispute Resolution (CDR) or the Motor Industry Bargaining Council's, Dispute Resolution Centre (DRC).

The Act has helped to ensure that good arbitration awards are won by unions. Of course there are bad awards as well and an element of abuse by those employers who want to destroy the union in the workplace.

According to cde Mongameli Mthembu, a Flatter Bright Steel shop steward and Springs local chairperson, "The Act needs to be amended to allow workers to strike over activists and shop steward who are dismissed unfairly and victimised by management.

The arbitration process is not fast enough to remedy the situation and the process is becoming too technical at CCMA/arbitration level." Comrade Vusi Ntshangase, a Satawu shop steward and Cosatu Springs local chairperson agrees.

"The major problem at the moment is unexplained delays of those arbitration awards won by the union which are then referred to the Labour Court for review in terms of section 145. The waiting period is more than two years. The Act should be amended with a view of giving the Labour Court a specific time period to deal with the case."

* Rolly Xipu is a local organiser based in Springs

Equity proceeds at 'snail's pace'

It's been two years since companies with more than 150 workers had to begin to report on their workforce's colour and gender make-up in terms of the Employment Equity Act and show how they were trying to address past imbalances.

Jenny Grice reports on the latest report from the Department of Labour. Pictures painted by reports from 1630 private companies in South Africa employing more than 1.5 million workers are revealing the slow pace of transformation.

Whites still dominate top management holding 75% of available jobs. Coloureds are next with 13% of the positions followed by Africans with 8% and Indians with 4% of positions. And of those top management positions, 88% are still held by men! Commenting on the results, Employment Equity Commissioner, Thuli Madonsela quipped, "if we continue at this snail's pace it will take 100 years to make a shift in the labour market!" Despite this, there are some positive signs – the vast majority of promotions were of Africans – 53% – followed by whites with 30%. Company reports point to other barriers that are preventing promotion of the previously disadvantaged.

More than a third of companies reported that their work environments made it unsuitable for the employment of women. just under a third of companies reported that low staff turnover meant few opportunities for promotion and the lack of human resource planning.

Skills development was meant to go hand in hand with employment equity but the fact that almost 30% of companies reported 'lack of skills' as a barrier to achieving employment equity is showing that "employment equity and skills development planning are not adequately integrated and do not support one another in organisations", the report found.

"We are not suggesting that Black people, women and persons with disabilities should be given jobs that they cannot perform or have no potential to grow into," appealed Minister of Labour, Membathisi Mdladlana, "but we are saying that let the artificial barriers which were placed in the context of an apartheid dispensation be removed so that we can build a truly non racial, non sexist democratic South Africa we committed ourselves to when we adopted our new constitution."


What progress is there in your workplace? Does skills development work to promote employment equity? Do we need changes to the Equity and Skills Development Acts? How can we speed up employment equity?

The LRA and Employment Equity Acts are not the only pieces of legislation that affect workers. Recently there was an outcry over an amendment to the Unemployment Insurance Fund Act (UIF). The new amendment now prevents a worker who has resigned from claiming UIF regardless of whether s/he has been contributing. What other clauses in other legislation do you think need to be changed. Think of the Skills Development Act, COIDA, OHSA and so on.


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