Labour bills could be bad for business

The amended Labour Relations and Basic Conditions of Employment bills could damage business, Business Unity SA (Busa) said on Tuesday (27 March 2012).

“The areas of disagreement currently contained in the bills… compromise existing jobs and pose considerable risks to further job creation, business and the economy,” Busa social policy executive director Vanessa Phala told reporters in Johannesburg.

“Business believes that in their current format, the bills are onerous and punitive and will have a negative impact on business,” she said.

“We are also concerned that these amendments will limit the employer’s ability to adjust and adapt consistently to changing market conditions.”

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant submitted the amendment bills to Cabinet on March 14. They were approved on March 20.

Phala said the bills were not yet ready for Parliament.

It was disappointing that they were approved without a final report from the National Economic Development and Labour Advisory Council.

“We would like government to first conduct a regulatory impact assessment (RIA) in order to understand the potential impact of these changes on the economy, as well as alignment to national development goals,” she said.

“The department of labour has acknowledged that it did not consider all recommendations of the RIA requested by Cabinet [on the bills] in 2010.”

Busa negotiator Tanya Cohen said businesses were concerned over an “equal treatment” provision in the Labour Relations Bill.

“It essentially says that all workers, be they part-time, temporary, permanent or [through] labour brokers, have to be paid at the same rate of pay. This is something that is not found worldwide — it is often regarded as discriminatory.”

She said Busa was also concerned that the temporary employment threshold was “too short”.

In the amended bills, temporary employment cannot exceed six months.

Cohen said this timeframe was not reasonable, considering that construction workers needed more than six months to complete a project.

Busa deputy chief executive Raymond Parsons said the organisation would continue to debate the bills until there was a reaction.

“As this debate unfolds, Busa is committed to a constructive engagement at all levels.”

On Tuesday, the department of labour announced the dates and venues for public hearings on the bill.

The department’s chief director of collective bargaining, Thembinkosi Mkalipi, said it had submitted the amendments and the next step was for the bills to be tabled before Parliament for debate.

“We are going to have briefings in all the provinces…. We feel it is also important that we should go back and report to public what we propose,” he said.

“We want to educate interested stakeholders what these changes mean. Our duty now is to provide clarification.”

Mkalipi said the public briefings planned by the department were intended to “strictly inform” and were not an input gathering session.

The hearings would be held in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Kimberly, Rustenburg, Witbank and Polokwane.

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Labour bills could be bad for business