Labour law changes remain uncertain
Ann Crotty - May 18th 2012, 08:44
Confusion surrounds whether the Department of Labour has dropped proposed amendments to the laws that were set to tighten regulations around strikes and picketing.
The proposed amendments are regarded as “anti-union” and, according to sources close to the department, are not expected to appear in the draft bill that will be presented to the parliamentary portfolio committee within the next two weeks.
The decision to drop the controversial amendments was apparently taken after recent bilateral talks between Cosatu and Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant.
It is understood that in exchange for dropping these amendments Cosatu is considering not pursuing its demand for an outright ban on labour broking. One labour analyst remarked that it was surprising that the government agreed to drop the balloting requirement as the greatest pressure for its inclusion had come from the cabinet, whose members were concerned about the impact of public sector strikes.
Earlier this week Thembinkosi Mkalipi, the chief director of collective bargaining at the department, made a presentation to the portfolio committee in which he outlined details of the proposed labour law amendments. In that presentation, Mkalipi discussed the “key amendments” relating to strikes and lock-outs and noted that “there had been blood on the floor” when negotiating these issues with the concerned parties.
In terms of these amendments, unions would be required to conduct ballots prior to embarking on strike activity and a majority of those voting would be required to vote in support of the strike. In addition, unions would no longer enjoy protection against civil legal proceedings in the event of a breach of picketing rules by any of its members.
During the meeting, Mkalipi gave no indication that these key amendments might be dropped from the draft bill which is to be presented to the committee within two weeks.
When the DA’s Sej Motau asked at the meeting whether there would be any changes from the current draft bill, he was told by committee chairman Mamagase Nchabeleng that some “technical changes” were being made but that the final document would not be a “departure from the document under consideration”. However, he added that if there were changes, “we do have the state law advisers”.
The department has not responded to a number of approaches by Business Report aimed at getting clarity on the situation.
Motau told Business Report yesterday that the committee members had not been informed of any decision to drop the key amendments. He assumed that if they were dropped it was as a result of pressure from the unions.
“We will have to wait to see the final document, but if these amendments have been dropped we will want to know why and we will want to get them put back in.”