Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill [B16-2012]: postponement of meeting

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Employment and Labour

04 September 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Nchabaleng (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson noted that there was no quorum, as only four Members were present and that the Department of Labour representatives were not in attendance as well. The Committee Secretary stated that the Department of Labour was aware that it should have been present, but later he was challenged on this, as it appeared that, rather than making arrangements several days in advance, he had left only a message to return his call, on the previous day. An ANC Member also confirmed that his colleague had said that he was not aware of this meeting, and the DA and COPE Members stated that although, by chance, they had been at their offices the previous day and had received documents, they too were concerned that documents consistently reached Members late, and that confirmation of meetings was sent through far too late to allow Members to make travel arrangements. They appealed to the Chairperson to take the matter up with the management committee, and the Chairperson rebuked the Secretary for not attending to his work properly. Members decided that they would meet on the following day, even if the Department of Labour could not attend, as a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources was scheduled, and they could also adopt of reports and minutes. The Chairperson agreed to discuss their non-attendance with Members who were not present, to speak to the Minister about the Department's position, and to report back.

Meeting report

Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill
The Chairperson noted that only four Members were present, despite his insistence that Members should take the Committee's issues seriously. He asked the Committee Secretary if there had been apologies. He also noted that the representatives from the Department of Labour (DoL) were not present.

Ben Kali, Committee Secretary, said he had received no apologies from Members, but the representatives from the Department of Labour were aware that they were supposed to be present. He did not know what was keeping them in Pretoria, but they had said that they were not able to be present either today or tomorrow. The Minister would apparently be phoning the Chairperson that evening, presumably to discuss this matter.

Mr S Motau (DA) said that this was very serious, and he was very concerned about the lax approach displayed by some Committee Members. This was very important legislation. Those Members who were not present today needed to account to the Chairperson. He appealed that something must be done to prevent meetings having to be cancelled, given the amount of work facing the Committee.

Mr D Kganare (COPE) supported these comments. He noted also that the Committee would have to consider the position of the Committee Secretary. On a previous occasion, the meeting had to be postponed because the documents were late reaching Members. Whilst he had been fortunate enough to call in to his office yesterday, and collect documents, other Members had not received the documents on time. This put them in an invidious position, since they clearly would not have time to prepare properly if they had received documents only that morning. He suggested that the Chairperson should find out, from the Head of the Department of Labour, what had happened, and report back as to exactly why no representatives were present. He agreed with Mr Motau that the Chairperson should also ask Members why they were not present. Ultimately, however, if this Committee did not have proper support mechanisms in place, there would continue to be problems. He commented that when the previous Committee Secretary was in office, there were not similar problems.

Mr A Williams (ANC) agreed with the comments of other Members. The Committee was dealing with very important legislation, and if no quorum was present, this was a waste of time. He felt that the Management Committee needed to take action. The Secretariat needed to improve. One of the other Members had commented that he had not been told of the meeting, and this was a serious problem.

The Chairperson noted that when he had arrived this morning, he had spoken to the Committee Secretary and had asked why the Department was not present. The Secretary assured him that he had called the Department the previous day. However, he had then overhead the Secretary talking to the Parliamentary Liaison Officer, saying, "You should have returned my call". He stressed that the Committee Secretary should not have merely left a message to return a call, but should have pursued the matter. He further agreed that his own documents were simply left in his pigeonhole, and that the written notification of the meeting did not show the time. Even though an SMS was sent later, this did not detract from the poor administration. He urged the Committee Secretary to improve his work. According to Mr Williams, other Members appeared not to have received notification. Even the Whip was not present. He suggested that perhaps he should write to them expressing concerns.

Mr Kganare said that, having heard the Chairperson, he was now even more concerned. He had assumed, from the Secretary's report earlier that the Department had known of this meeting some time ago. Now it appeared that he had not been entirely truthful, and he had not elaborated that he had in fact only left a message to return a call. He was insistent that the Secretary must be entirely honest with the Committee.

Mr Motau added that he had been for some time concerned that even SMS messages to Members were consistently sent through late. The practice in the past was that Members were to be reminded of meetings at least three days prior to the meeting. If Members were only informed yesterday, at 17:00, of a meeting commencing on the following day at 09:00, they would not have been able to make travel arrangements.

The Chairperson revised his earlier suggestion and said that instead of writing to the Whips, he would prefer first to discuss this with Members, and then report back.

The Chairperson also noted that if the Department was not going to be present on the following day, this would have implications on the programme.

Mr Kali said his impression was that the Department would not be present on the following day but the Minister would be phoning the Chairperson later in the evening and would probably clarify this.

Mr Williams said that it was pointless to continue with the meeting, since the lack of quorum prevented even an adoption of the minutes.

The Chairperson suggested that perhaps minutes and reports could be adopted on the following day, if enough Members were present.

Mr Kganare said that some Members had other Committee meetings, and he pointed out that he did not want to waste his time attending a meeting, only to find it cancelled again. He moved that the meeting scheduled for the following day also be cancelled, until proper arrangements had been made.

Mr Willams did not agree, pointing out that notices had already been sent out for the following day, and the Member to whom he had spoken had indicated that he would be present. This was intended to be a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources. He proposed, and the rest of the Members agreed, that the 5 September meeting should proceed.

The meeting was adjourned.


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