Parliamentary Focus

Parliamentary FocusNumsa’s parliamentary officer, Woody Aroun, talks about the Green Paper on Strategic Planning and progress with regard to the labour broker issue.

Green Paper: National Strategic Planning On September 4 2009, the Minister of National Planning, Trevor Manuel who is located in the Office of the Presidency, released a Green Paper on National Strategic Planning.

The Green Paper proposed that the new ministry coordinate a strategy to:- provide a long term plan in the context of the country’s developmental agenda, without necessarily compromising short term goals for growth and economic development- improve service delivery- eliminate poverty and socio-economic inequalities – create a platform for departments to address ‘policy inconsistencies’.

At the same time the Minister for Performance Management Monitoring and Evaluation, (also working from the Office of the Presidency) released his document “Improving government performance: Our approach”. The two documents are not mutually exclusive.

In the words of Minister Manuel “the papers jointly signal how key functions undertaken by the Presidency are interconnected and complement each other”.

Two structuresBriefly, the Green Paper suggests that two structures should be established to take the process of national strategic planning forward:- National Planning Commission (NPC) – It would be a permanent structure, chaired by the Minister of National Planning.

He would be assisted by part-time commissioners. Composed of a team of experts, intellectuals and leaders, it would draft a national plan in consultation with government and broader civil society by 2010.

The Minister of National Planning would serve as the link between government and the NPC. – Ministerial Committee on Planning – It would be chaired also by Minister Manuel with members appointed by the president.

The president and deputy president would be ex-officio members.The Minister has placed an enormous amount of emphasis on societal stakeholder involvement and ‘buy-in’ but with some limitations.

Depersonalizing the DebateThus far the Green Paper has provoked strong reaction from Cosatu and the SACP. They have called for a complete overhaul of the Green Paper.

They want the President to play a more decisive role in facilitating policy development without undermining the functions and independence of the different ministries that together constitute government.

At its 10th National Congress in September, Cosatu resolved:* that it would “participate in all consultative forums including Nedlac and public hearings in Parliament” to explain why it opposes the content of the Green Paper.* that it would urgently develop an alternative position on the role and constitution of the NPC and the Ministry of Economic Development.* part of the alternative view is that the NPC should more closely align its perspective with the ideas of building a developmental state as developed in Polokwane and the Alliance Economic Summit.* that urgent measures must be taken to strengthen and build the capacity of the “newly established ministries and departments” so that they can adequately carry out the mandate to build a developmental state.* that “

The NPC and the Ministry of the NPC should not be allowed to veto decisions of other departments; this is the responsibility and power of the cabinet.”

Public hearingsAt the public hearings on the Green Paper on October 27, Cosatu spelt out its views:* that policy formulation and economic development should be shifted away from the NPC Ministry.* that the NPC Ministry’s main aim should be to develop plans that implement government’s policy. * it rejected the Ministerial Committee under the chairpersonship of the Minister in the NPC, on the grounds that this would lead to one Minister being raised above the rest (a Prime Minister).

This lack of accountability would “inevitably result in two centres of power”* “the president or the deputy president should chairperson all ministerial and ministerial cluster committee meetings”.

In response, the ANC and Minister Trevor Manuel have called for Cosatu to depersonalize the debate on the Green Paper. The federation attempted to do this by submitting a written response to the Ad Hoc Committee.

However, this form of argument (‘depersonalize the debate’) can also be used to throw off the attack and discredit your opponents, particularly when dealing with matters that are highly political and speak to issues of power relations.

In the final scheme of things, this tit for tat approach (which the media thoroughly enjoys) has the potential of doing more harm than good.

The Role of Civil Society The Green Paper emphasizes the need for broader consultation between civil society and the NPC, but the Minister appears to have certain reservations on the role of social actors.

In the Green Paper, he warns that “each social sector has tended to pursue narrow interests, often at the expense of longer term objectives”.

However he does agree that engagement with social partners is necessary but warns that “such interaction should not become a negotiating forum where ideas are watered down to meet the lowest common interest of stakeholders”.

My own view is that this form of criticism by the Minister is unwarranted and has no justification. When Cosatu and social movements demand an end to poverty, a right to decent jobs and employment for all,

I don’t think that they are pursuing “narrow interests”. On the contrary I believe that the Minister seriously wants to create a process for engagement with social partners that puts him firmly in the driving seat and this can be problematic.

What remains now is for the Alliance partners to find an amicable solution and put policy making where it rightfully belongs – in the public arena!

Letters from readers:Why we don’t want labour brokersAt the company where I'm working we are using the service of a labour broker called Work Force. On a daily basis disgruntled workers from this labour broker are complaining about their working conditions.

They tell us that:* they are provided with protective clothing but Work Force then deducts R421.80. This means workers are paying for it. * Work Force organise and take workers to training but deduct the money that they've paid training providers from these temporary workers.

We currently have workers that are paying +/- R3000 for motorized equipment training. * workers will be called to work and after working for certain hours they will be told that they've called them by mistake and they must go home. * the primary employer told permanent workers that they don't have a budget for overtime and it was cancelled.

But they allow Work Force to work over time because it's cheap labour, and most of the time these workers have to fight for their overtime payment. * they work forced overtime because if certain persons don't work overtime they will be reminded that they are temporary workers and that they can replace them at any given time. *

Sometimes they work till late and the transport organized by Work Force will leave them far from their homes without taking into account their safety * they are earning far less than their permanent colleagues and don't enjoy the same benefits as permanent workers like performance bonuses, medical aid etc. * if they make a mistake, the primary employer will chase them away and ask for a replacement without them undergoing any hearing * they don't have job security.

Because of these reasons most of the temporary workers are frustrated and they don't come back when they are called to work at VWSA Roodekop. Some of the VWSA workers are also starting to get frustrated because they always have to train new temps. Because of these reasons, we feel that labour brokers promote slavery.

They undermine basic human rights to dignity, safety, social and job security and we call for their total ban.Veli TsiloVWSA Roodekop shop steward

Dear Comrade Veli

Thanks for your e-mail detailing the experiences of casual workers at your plant and the attitude of labour brokers that are hell bent on exploiting the labour of our fellow comrades.

Your earlier submission (17 August 2009) formed part of a collective response that was put together by Numsa and appended to the overall submission by Cosatu. The Portfolio Committee on Labour held public hearings in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Free State and the North West.

At the moment the Portfolio Committee is busy wrapping up its assessment and report on the provincial hearings. As soon as the report is concluded and made available to the public,

I will then circulate the contents of the report to all our regions.As I write, we have just heard that they will now hold parliamentary hearings in the Eastern Cape. Comrades who work in the Eastern Cape should check their local office for details of when the hearing will take place so that they can go and tell their story.

Further discussions on labour brokers at Nedlac have been put on hold pending the release of a draft bill by the Department of Labour in 2010.

Cosatu CampaignIn the meantime Cosatu has vowed to continue with its campaign calling for a complete ban on labour brokers and recently called on affiliates to use their lunch times to demonstrate against the use of labour brokers in all the major cities of the country.

Yours in the struggle

W. ArounNumsa Parliamentary OfficeBelvilleCape Town


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