Opposition parties reject employment and labour department's proposed budget for 2021/22

Opposition parties have rejected the employment and labour department's proposed budget.
Opposition parties have rejected the employment and labour department's proposed budget.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

Opposition parties have rejected the employment and labour department’s budget tabled on Friday by minister Thulas Nxesi.

Nxesi said the department's budget for the 2021/22 financial year had decreased by R351m to R3.5bn.

DA MP Michael Cardo said the labour budget failed workers, employers and the unemployed.

“The department of employment and labour’s R3.5bn budget does nothing to help oil the wheels of job creation in the private sector. Instead, it puts sand in the engine of growth. 

“All the while, with every passing year, our unemployment numbers go up. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the fourth quarter of 2020, the official unemployment rate increased from 30.8% to 32.5% between the third and fourth quarter last year. This is the highest unemployment rate on record since the start of the survey in 2008.”

He said the party would submit amendments to the Labour Relations Act in parliament to help create a “conducive” environment for job creation.

“We want to exempt small and newly established firms from extended collective bargaining agreements.”

DA MP Michael Bagraim described the budget as a “disgrace and shameful”.

“The governing party has failed its partners and has certainly failed the workforce in SA,” he said.

EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi said the party was also opposed to the proposed budget.

“This department must be changed to be called the unemployment and slavery department because that is all they are responsible for — the opposite [of what] it is mandated to do,” she said.

She claimed that labour department inspectors hired by the department to visit workplaces to ensure that fair labour practices were followed were not doing their job.

“If you ask any worker in the street about labour inspectors, they will tell you that they are the workers’ worst nightmare as they are bought by employers. The minister is aware of this, everyone is aware of this but they are not doing anything about it.”

She said the Labour Relations Act favoured the employer.

IFP MP Siphosethu Ngcobo said the unemployment rate could only be addressed if the labour department ensured workers were protected from employers who wanted to abuse circumstances created by Covid-19.

“There is a need for innovative solutions because the unemployment crisis is bigger than before and it is trapping our youth.”

He said support for unions should also be increased to boost their capacity to protect workers.

“We urge support for the CCMA to ensure companies that try to abuse their employees are brought to book.”

FF Plus said the labour department and its entities had been failing workers long before the coronavirus pandemic.

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