Today's Labour News

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In Thursday’s editorial, Business Day notes that this month marks 100 years since the promulgation of the Industrial Conciliation Act in 1924, a pivotal piece of legislation that formed the basis for future SA’s labour relations.

It introduced industrial councils and a system of voluntary collective bargaining. This act was in response to the Rand Rebellion of 1922, when about 25,000 mineworkers went on strike, resulting in 5,000 strikers being arrested and 150 people killed. However, the legislation had a major flaw in that it discriminated against black workers by excluding them from the definition of “employee”, so preventing them from forming or joining registered trade unions. That exclusion persisted until 1979, when black trade unions were first granted statutory recognition. The new era of collective labour law was given effect by the jurisprudence developed by the labour courts. But, after 100 years of trial and error, the time is said to have come to reform SA’s labour laws, regulations and processes. This is particularly crucial for cutting red tape and administrative costs for small medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). Greater attention needs to be on job seekers. Moreover, the government needs to come up with a bold strategy to reform labour market institutions to enable them to tackle the root causes of extreme structural unemployment. The IMF has already suggested some reforms needed to align SA’s labour laws with contemporary needs. It says that minimum wage setting should carefully balance reducing in-work poverty and enhancing the job prospects of disadvantaged groups. Also, wage bargaining co-ordination could be strengthened by adopting a norm that facilitates negotiation based on productivity gains and inflation, and having the government highlight more prominently the employment cost of excessive wage growth.

  • Read the full original of the editorial at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)

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