In considering the ‘avalanche of oral and written submissions’ on the National Minimum Wage Bill, Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and Labour Relations Amendment Bill, National Assembly Labour Committee members will require more time than originally envisaged if they are to arrive at legislation mitigating the possibility of numerous ‘court hearings’. This, reports Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch, was the thrust of yet another Department of Labour press release on nationwide employer briefings largely focusing on minimum wage exemption procedures. It was released yesterday with a separate media statement confirming that, while this year’s ‘workers month’ will still be ‘dedicated’ to the national minimum wage, its theme will be ‘monitoring, enforcement and (the) readiness of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration’ to deal with related disputes.
Describing all three Bills giving effect to agreements in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) as ‘progressive policy tools’ for eventually guaranteeing ‘a living wage for working people’, the two statements tend to suggest that the department sees the process entailed as a long ‘journey’. With the end objective in mind, the proposed new legislation simply seeks to lay the necessary foundations for ‘addressing wage inequalities’ and ‘strengthening collective bargaining’ over time. These issues will be unpacked during ‘workers month’ at imbizos in each province, which will also ‘discuss’ provisions in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill aimed at facilitating labour market stability by discouraging ‘often long, protracted and violent strikes’.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the National Assembly’s Labour Committee will hear ‘extended oral presentations’ on the Bills that could well include input from the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu). As Legalbrief Today has already reported, the powerful new labour federation submitted written comments on the proposed new statues only this week (Polity) – well after the deadline. Since then, two days of public hearings have come and gone. Yesterday, marching on Parliament to call for ‘a living wage’, Saftu members threatened to ‘celebrate’ the federation’s first anniversary by making SA ‘ungovernable’ unless the national minimum wage in its current format is scrapped and ‘fair labour laws’ introduced (Mail & Guardian). A decision on Saftu’s application for Nedlac membership has yet to be announced.