Labour Relations Amendment Draft Bill [PMB2-2014]

Call for comments opened 12 November 2014 Share this page:

Employment and Labour

Notice is given that Ian Ollis MP intends introducing a private member's bill shortly in order to amend the Labour Relations Act (No. 6 of 1995) to make provision for trade unions to be accountable in the event of violence, destruction of property and intimidation by union members during a protected strike, and comments are requested.

A copy of the draft Labour Relations Amendment Bill and a memorandum setting out its objectives are included in the schedule to this notice in fulfilment of the requirements of Rule 241(1)(c) of the Rules of the National Assembly.

Bill seeks to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995, so as to:
▪ provide for the accountability of trade unions in the event of violence, destruction to property and intimidation by union members during a protected strike;
▪ empower the Labour Court to declare the cessation of a protected strike or to refer the protected strike for arbitration in the event of riot damage

Interested parties and institutions are invited to submit written representations on the draft bill

Comments can be emailed to the Acting Secretary to Parliament at btyawa@parliament.gov.za and copied to cayleyb@da.org.za by no later than Sunday, 7 December 2014.

Background
Recent concerns around labour relations in South Africa have largely centred on the level of strike action, and specifically the escalation in levels of violence associated with strikes, which is costly to owners of property and businesses and threatens the personal safety of persons subjected to the conduct of participants in violent strike action. In the previous financial year, the total number of strikes went up from 99 to 114 with over 50% of recorded strike action being characterised as unprotected and often subject to incidences of violence and destruction of property. This is of concern if consideration is given to the fact that the incidences of recorded strike action in South Africa exhibits an upward trend, rising from 51 cases in 2009, 74 cases in 2010, measuring a slight decline to 67 in 2011, and sharply rising in 2012 to 99 cases and 114 industrial incidents in 2013. Considering the atmosphere of industrial relations in the first half of 2014, the upward movement in incidence of recorded strike action is likely to continue. Statistics from recent protest action in the metal and engineering sector show that in the first two weeks of the strike, 246 cases of intimidation, 50 violent "incidents" and 85 cases of vandalism were recorded. Although the Act recognises the right to lawful strike action, a proper balance must be struck between the right of workers to engage in legal strike action and minimizing the incidence of violent protest resulting in malicious damage to property or injury to persons. Adjustments need to be made within the system of labour relations in order to find this balance. Though the Regulation of Gatherings Act 1993 (Act No. 205 of 1993) imposes restrictions and prohibitions upon gatherings and demonstrations that cause "riot damage" to third parties, the current provisions within the legislation fail to address instances where damage caused - to persons and property by strikers in the course of promoting the objects of the strike - does not necessarily occur within the structures of a gathering or demonstration. Indeed, harm caused by strikers often occurs underhandedly at strike-breakers' homes and as strike participants move to and from strike locations - violence and damage to persons and property therefore occurring outside the formal strictures of a sanctioned strike or gathering, yet acting in furtherance of union-supported collective action. This Bill thus seeks to provide a statutory duty on trade unions to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to persons and property within the Act.