/ 18 January 2011

Proposed labour legislation ‘open to debate’

Proposed changes to labour legislation that aim to end casual-worker brokers are a long way from becoming law and are open to debate, a senior labour department official said in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Thembinkosi Mkalipi, a department manager presiding over the first day of public hearings on proposed amendments to the labour laws, said if problems were found in the proposed amendments there was ample time to fix them.

“The issue of these laws being badly drafted is the last of our worries. They are nowhere near going to Parliament yet. We have numerous meetings scheduled with Nedlac [the National Economic Development and Labour Council] about these changes to the laws.

“They are open to debate. If we all agree, then we will fix them. We will not do anything illegal.”

Mkalipi said he saw no reason why two people doing the same job, one of them hired through a labour broker, should not both be employed permanently.

“If you have one worker who is employed full time and he or she is making chairs, and then you hire a labour broker to hire someone to also make chairs, it doesn’t make sense,” Mkalipi said.

“They should both be employed as full-time workers.”

Balanced feedback
Public feedback was balanced by those for the amendments and those against.

“There are some who are for them and some who are against. Let’s give this process time and see what happens.”

On Monday, Democratic Alliance labour spokesperson Ian Ollis said the four labour Bills were “shockingly badly drafted” and had the potential to cause hundreds of thousands of job losses.

“The four Bills that have been announced by the Zuma administration need to be halted in their tracks until the array of problematic provisions they contain are removed,” he told a media briefing at Parliament in Cape Town.

Ollis said the Bills, if promulgated, would create relatively few new permanent and “potentially unionised” posts, but would destroy hundreds of thousands jobs in the South African economy.

Legal challenges
The DA saw a number of legal challenges being mounted against the Bills should they be promulgated.

“These laws have been shockingly badly drafted and are not of the calibre of being brought before the public and Parliament,” Ollis said.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) rejected Ollis’s statement as “a myth”.

“It is a big myth, propagated by the DA and its ideological friends in business and the media, that labour brokers ‘create jobs’,” Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said.

On the contrary, he said, only those companies actively involved in production and service delivery created jobs.

The next labour hearings will take place in Port Elizabeth on January 20. — Sapa