|Proposed changes to labour relations act may hurt thousands of workers|
A great number of workers could end up disenfranchised if the latest proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act (1995) are accepted in their present form, says the trade union UASA.
Drastic changes to the amendments are necessary, says Leon Grobler, Chief Operations Officer of UASA and Chief Negotiator of Fedusa at Nedlac on the amendments.
UASA, an affiliate of Fedusa, believes that the proposed amendments have not been thought through properly and could have a very negative impact on workers in South Africa,
“If the amendments are accepted in their current form we could see history repeating itself, albeit with a different class of workers as in the 1956 dispensation,” says Grobler.
“In the then so-called dualistic system of labour relations in South Africa, black workers did not fit the definition of an employee, and were thus unable to make use of the provisions of the act such as collective bargaining and dispute resolution,” he says.
Grobler says in 2011 the proposed insertion of section 187A (Limitation on the application of Chapter VIII) represents a similar threat to workers as it has the potential of denying approximately 60% of the country’s workers access to the CCMA to resolve unfair labour practice, restructuring and similar disputes.
“This would be the case if Nelisiwe Oliphant, Minister of Labour, should decide to fix the application threshold at approximately R150 000 per annum, which is the current threshold in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” he says.
When the Labour Relations Act of 1995 was introduced by the then Minister of Labour, Tito Mboweni, affordability, accessibility and simplicity of CCMA procedures for workers were set as guiding principles which applied to all workers, irrespective their levels of remuneration.
The proposed amendments are, however, in direct opposition to the preamble of the current Labour Relations Act which states: “to provide simple procedures for the resolution of labour dispute through...”, says Grobler.
“We could see these principles fall by the wayside since workers above this threshold will be forced to approach an already overburdenedLabour Court, workers will be forced to pay for lawyers to assist them, trade unions will have to fork out massive amounts of money and disputes will take ages to be resolved.
“We view this as a major step back into the dark ages for workers,” says Grobler. “Unresolved disputes will have a major impact on productivity because of the anxiety and trauma associated with it.”
An additional major blow for workers may be waiting if sections 68, 69, 71, 72 and 75 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) are repealed.
“This would result in the abolishment of labour inspectors and with that the right of enforcement. If a worker should for instance experience a problem about the non-payment of salaries with his/her employer, such an employee would no longer be able to approach the local office of the Department of Labour, but would have to approach the Labour Court instead and seek recourse in terms of section 77 of the BCEA,” says Grobler.
It is our contention that the above and other amendments have not been thought through properly and could see South Africa’s workers disenfranchised. Drastic changes to the amendments are urgently required, concludes Grobler.
For further enquiries or to set up a personal interview,
Leon Grobler: 082 455 1736
Dennis George: 084 805 1529