Cosatu concedes defeat on labour brokers
Union federation had believed it could press the ANC into an outright ban
Cosatu has conceded that it has lost its long-running battle with the ruling party for an outright ban on labour brokers.
“In relation to labour broking, we were not successful in getting an agreement,” the labour federation’s parliamentary representative Prakashnee Govender told MPs.
The comment came on Tuesday in public hearings on the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill, hosted by Parliament’s portfolio committee on labour, which saw Cosatu call for a raft of further changes to the bills.
The bills are widely seen by business as a disincentive to investment and job creation, but Govender said they failed to go far enough towards addressing exploitative labour market trends and social inequalities spawned by apartheid.
She called for the scrapping of the six-month period in section 198C of the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, after which temporary workers must be given the same benefits as permanent staff.
It would “effectively allow employers to hire and fire employees during the first six months of employment”, and in that time the worker will have no recourse to a claim of unfair dismissal.
Cosatu also tackled clauses it says would limit the right to strike and to support labour action, and said here it had reached an agreement with the ANC, but the party had reneged on it.
Section 64 notably imposes a restriction by forcing unions to ballot members on strikes and obtaining a certificate to show they had complied.
Govender termed it “a fundamental attack” on the right to strike and on collective bargaining, as well as a throw-back to the apartheid labour regime.
Cosatu also complained about possible subjectivity in the way the bill seeks to determine essential services, and said parties should be able to appoint their own members to the panel set up to deal with this.
It was concerned that essential services were too widely defined in practice and that this had severely limited workers’ rights to strike, she said.
The federation furthermore called for the scrapping of section 26 of the bill, which allows for mediation in a labour dispute in the public interest, where neither the employers nor the workers had invited it.
Cosatu dismissed comments from the political opposition that it was unfair that it should enjoy meetings with the ANC on the bills outside the forum of Nedlac, where negotiations on the bills had dragged on for nearly two years.
“Busa (Business Unity SA) also did. We are just more open about it,” Govender said.
Cosatu has welcomed the amendments that seek to regulate labour broking, but has until very recently suggested that it believed it could press the ANC into an outright ban, which is widely opposed by the labour market liberals.
Trade union Solidarity argued in its presentation that the proposed amendments would hamper economic growth, investment and job creation.
The same point was made by the American Chamber of Commerce in SA.
Speaking on behalf of the chamber, Shibishi Maruatona told MPs the amendments making dismissal more complex and placing strict time limits on temporary employment must be reconsidered.
“Without that flexibility many businesses will close.”