Presentation of Department's Legislative Programme & Discussion of Committee Programme for 1998

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Employment and Labour

10 February 1998
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Meeting report

10 FEBRUARY 1998

Mr Oliphant

The meeting began with Mr Blaas (NP) informing the members that Mr Fourie (NP) would take his place on the committee. Mr Bikitsha (NP) also joined the committee for the first time. The chairperson, Mr Oliphant, handed over to the Department of Labour to give their presentation on the legislative programme for 1998.

Mr Sipho Pityana (Director-General of the Department of Labour) spoke about the intentions of the Department regarding the Basic Condition of Employment Bill. The Department would be involved in initiating campaigns to publicise the Bill. This included the distribution of pamphlets, using the medium of television and radio to advertise, etc. They would also be instituting training programmes for the Department staff so that they could cope with the administration and any other new developments which would arise. Mr Pityana mentioned that the Department would be working on designing a new enforcement system as well.

Two issues still to be finalised:
1) Improvement of maternity benefits
A task team was set up to assess the Unemployment Insurance Fund and to establish how benefits could be improved. The Unemployment Insurance Board would make suggestions on how benefits could be improved.
2) Effect of the Basic Conditions of Employment legislation on small businesses.
A task team, headed by Ntsiki, a parastatal which deals with small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME), would investigate the issue surrounding small businesses. It was envisaged that Ntsiki would be able to hand in their findings by the end of March. From these findings amendments might have to be made. The Minster had made a commitment that the investigation regarding small businesses had to be undertaken before the implementation of the Bill.

Two questions were posed to the Department.
1) What was the purpose of the campaign set out by the Department?
2) Concerning the Unemployment Insurance Fund, were funds sufficient to accommodate the bill?
Regarding the first question, the Department said that educating the public was very important and would be implemented in the same way that the Labour Relations Act had been publicised. Concerning the second question, Mr Pityana informed the committee that the Minister had appointed a panel to look into the Fund. A computer programme had been established whereby payments could be made to people electronically. Through this method, a record would be kept of all the payments that were made. This pilot project has been started in Kwazulu Natal and would be in existence until March 1998. Thereafter, it would be implemented country wide. Also the Fund would like to create a central database to store all the information of people who use it. An outstanding amount of 124 million rand would have to be paid by employers into the Fund. Steps have been taken to recover the money.

Issues still to be covered were sexual harassment, coverage for domestic workers and injury compensation prior to June 1997.  The Department had been given 18 months to investigate and finalise the issues mentioned.

Mr Kettledas (Deputy Director-General of the Labour Department) outlined the legislative programme for 1998. He said the focus would be the Skill Development Bill and the Employment Equity Bill.

Regarding the Skills Development Bill, three areas remained outstanding in negotiations:
1) Governance structure
2) Levy grant scheme
3) National skills fund

The negotiating process with NEDLAC took place in October 1997 and would resume on 16th February 1998. Mr Kettledas said that the Department hoped to conclude the negotiations by the end of February. He said that the Bill would be tabled in the National Assembly on 27th March 1998 if the negotiations were completed.

Concerning the draft Employment Equity Bill, it was published on 1 December 1997 and launched in all the provinces. Mr Kettledas informed the committee that public comments on the draft Bill would close on Monday, 16 February 1998. Negotiations with NEDLAC would begin on 25 February 1998 and the Department would like them to conclude by the end of March. The Bill would be brought before the National Assembly in May and adoption concluded in Parliament in June 1998. Mr Kettledas told the committee that research work would run parallel to the negotiations. The chairperson, Mr Oliphant, informed the committee that a delegation went to Pretoria last week to deal with the matter. The Department invited five members of the Portfolio Committee to be part of the delegation. The five members consisted of the ANC only, due to logistical problems. The stakeholders were from business, labour and the legal fraternity.

Mr Pityana gave the committee an update on other issues. These included the Labour Relations Act and the Job Summit. The Labour Relations Act was promulgated in November 1996. The “teething” problems became clearer last year and potential amendments were mooted. It became apparent that labour consultants had to be defined as their exclusion was having a negative impact. With regard to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the conciliation and arbitration process might be combined so that the parties concerned would take the CCMA proceedings more seriously. More consultation regarding retrenchment of mine workers were underway.

With regard to the Job Summit, the government was in the process of arranging a plan to execute it. Proposals would be presented to government before March/ April. A date for the Summit had not been set yet.

After the department gave their input on 1998 legislation, the committee discussed its programme for the first session. Below is the revised programme:

Date                                                     Activity
1.         10/02/98                                    Presentation of 1998 Legislative programme -
            (Tuesday)                                  Department of Labour   & Discussion on
                                                            programme for first session.

2.         16/02/98                                    Provincial visit - Mpumalanga

3.         17/02/98                                    Visit NEDLAC offices in Johannesburg

4.         18/02/98                                    Workshop on Employment Equity &
(Wednesday)                                         Skills Development (Facilitated by the Department)

02 – 06/03/98                                        Provincial visits
(Mon. – Fri.)                                         

6.         16 – 20/03/98                            Malaysian study tour
            (Mon. – Fri.)


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