Speech delivered by the Deputy Minister of Labour, Nkosi adv Phathekile Holomisa (ah! Dilizintaba) MP, at the National Council of Provinces debate on “Advancing our collective efforts to creating work opportunities for our people”) in Cape Town
17 May 2018
Thank you for affording me the opportunity to participate in this important debate during this Workers Month of May 2018. Indeed creating work opportunities for our people is paramount and definitely needs our collective effort and resolve as a nation.
After the Government of the African National Congress came to power in 1994, the 1st of May was declared an official public holiday in South Africa.
This day provided an opportunity for South African workers to join the world in celebrating International Workers Day. The 1st May holiday is very significant in the history of the labour movement in South Africa and indeed worldwide as a day to pay homage to the noble struggle for workers to break free from the chains of oppression, slave wages and indignity.
This is a time when we celebrate international solidarity, the social and economic achievements that workers, labour movements and progressive governments have made across the world.
Honourable Members, the struggle for the advancement of the rights of workers in South Africa is well documented.
Allow me, therefore, to quote from the speech delivered by the Honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address at the COSATU May Day celebrations on the 1st of May this year in Port Elizabeth.
“As we celebrate this day, let us take time to remember some of the stalwarts that made significant contributions towards advancing the plight of the working people during the early days of the South African Congress of Trade Unions, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and other progressive trade unions in this country.
Those who fought side by side with our liberation movement to liberate our people. Amongst them are Comrades Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Oscar Mphetha, Elijah Barayi, Billy Nair, John Gomomo, Emma Mashinini and many others.”
We have, as a nation, adopted a Constitution that declares in its Preamble that we respect those who have worked to build and develop our country. It recognises the right of everyone to fair labour practices. It declares that every worker has the right to form and join a trade union, to participate in its activities and programmes. Every worker has the right to strike.
Honourable Chairperson It is common cause that prior to 1994, the South African labour market was characterised by deep segmentation and oppressive workplace relations. The democratic government introduced a number of initiatives to improve industrial relations. The National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) was formed to facilitate consultation between the social partners on key legislation.
This is the same institution that deliberated on the National Minimum Wage and the proposed amendments to our labour laws that are before Parliament today. NEDLAC remains relevant in assisting us to ensure that our country’s labour laws are deracialised, modernised, and extended equally to all workers.
Chairperson, allow me thank the National Council of Provinces also for taking Parliament to the people and making extensive recommendations, to my home Province, the Eastern Cape.
The recommendations will indeed, if implemented, improve the lives of our people on the ground and are not only confined to the Eastern Cape. These recommendations should also be seen within the context of our chosen theme today, “Advancing our collective efforts to creating work opportunities for our people.”
The theme is in line with the ruling party’s Medium Term Strategic Framework, Outcome 4, that calls on our departments to work towards Inclusive Economic Growth through Decent Work.
It is, therefore, my submission that the recommendations can be effectively implemented, if we are to do so employing the Decent Work pillars as adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and in line with our South Africa’s Country Decent Work Programme.
Honourable Members, Decent Work, has nothing to do with work that involves a suit, a tie, a big office and a huge salary for all. Decent work has more to do with providing workers with a space for social dialogue and information, the right to collectively bargain, the right to a protective working environment and to earn an income that can sustain their livelihoods, in exchange for quality and high level production of goods and services.
The Decent Work pillars could be extended to a number of issues that I observed in the Report. As we implement these recommendations, it is vital and remains critical, for the Local Economic Development Forums, the Provincial Economic Development Forums, Platforms such as NEDLAC and Provincial leadership, structures to continue sharing information and engaging in social dialogue.
Social dialogue remains key in avoiding unnecessary disputes that often result in stoppages of major projects, and conflicts driven by jostling for employment opportunities. Social dialogue is the glue that helps us to plan together and consequently realise the development agenda and major projects that can be initiated, with spin-offs in employment and the development of our cities and villages.
Honourable Chairperson, This should be strengthened by sound inter-governmental relations, the sharing of information, and the conducting of initiatives in a manner that takes all role players and stakeholders on board. Different government departments and parastatals, for that matter, have programmes that are aimed at assisting young people and the unemployed to acquire skills, to be provided with counselling, funding, employment schemes and a range of information that could be useful in improving their livelihoods.
Embracing our Public Service ethos, coupled with a healthy social dialogue, would go a long way in resolving many challenges that we face as a society, including problems related to Early Childhood Development Centres, schools, hospitals and even clinics management.
Yes, it is true that workers must deliver quality services that meet the expectations of our people but, equally they must also be heard, they must be provided with the right apparel and safety gear, they must also work in a conducive and safe environment and be remunerated accordingly.
Chairperson, it is precisely for this reason that the Department of Labour continues to invest a lot of money in both NEDLAC, to enhance social dialogue, and the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), to resolve disputes in the labour market. These institutions can lend a hand in social dialogue.
We have the Labour Policy and Industrial Relations branch that monitors the performance of the labour market through research and, therefore, helps us in reviewing and adjusting our laws at regular intervals to maintain industrial peace.
We also have programmes such as the Public Employment Services (PES) that assist work seekers and employers to adjust to changing economic conditions and assist workseekers with registration, selection, counselling and ultimately placement to employment opportunities. PES also manages migration of labour across our borders in consultation with the Department of Home Affairs.
Within the Department of Labour portfolio, we have Productivity South Africa (PSA), an entity whose programmes include, amongst others, saving companies in distress from closure.
These new schemes driven by Productivity South Africa, and funded by the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Compensation Fund, are aimed at facilitating entry into employment as well as preventing loss of employment. Thousands of work seekers have been assisted through these initiatives.
We also know, Chairperson, that not all employers out there are good Samaritans. We have the Inspection and Enforcement Services unit that is doing its level best to ensure compliance to our labour laws. We continue to close unsafe workplaces and are prosecuting those employers who breach our laws.
We also provide two safety nets in cases of temporary or permanent loss of employment through either injuries, diseases, dismissals or workplace closures, through the Compensation Fund and the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
The two funds provide replacement income and serve to cushion workers from poverty. Thousands of workers have benefitted from these funds.
Our labour laws are aimed at promoting economic growth and ensuring greater equality in employment in terms of race and gender. In 1994, just 34 percent of working age Africans were employed. Today, roughly 43 percent of working age Africans are employed. In 1994, only 19 percent of managers and 51 percent of skilled production workers were African, whereas today the figures stand at around 41 percent of managers and 77 percent of skilled production workers, respectively, who are African.
Today, there are also encouraging signs in relation to the economy.
• The economy has started showing positive signs of recovery with a higher than expected fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product rate in 2017.
• The employment numbers also turned positive, especially for agriculture, with 81 000 new jobs being recorded.
• And the economic forecasts are positive, both for higher economic growth and for employment creation.
Despite these positive changes, challenges remain. Over the past ten years there has been fragmentation of the labour market with many more workers in casual and temporary work than in full time employment.
Youth unemployment remains persistently high and access to employment and the labour market is a challenge for many people, especially in the rural areas.
Working together within local, provincial and national government levels, as communities, trade unions and business, we can easily advance our economy, achieve decent employment and, at the same time, overcome challenges in our villages and townships.
In closing, I must say I appreciate the in-depth report that we have been favoured with, that chronicles all manner of challenges faced, in this case, by the Eastern Cape. It is incumbent upon us as the leadership of society to confront the challenges narrated in the report as a collective.
It is vital that we invoke our intergovernmental mechanisms and adopt an integrated approach to ensure that we do not only overcome these challenges, but also create a conducive environment and a labour market that will yield and create work opportunities for our people.
I thank you!
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