Draft Labour Committee programme for third quarter 2014

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Employment and Labour

25 September 2014
Chairperson: Ms L Yengeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Labour met to consider its draft programme for the third quarter of 2014, and to review the executive summary report on its unannounced oversight visits to the Nyanga and Bellville satellite office and labour centre.

Some of the programme amendments turned out to be quite contentious. One proposal which seemed to not sit well with an Opposition Member was that of conducting a public hearing on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) at De Doorns, in the Cape Winelands. He felt that such a hearing would be quite provocative and too soon after the recently settled wage dispute between farm workers and their employers. Moreover since the Deputy President would be holding a National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) summit close to that hearing date, he was concerned over a contradiction of processes between the two, as the summit would deal with the NMW as well. He felt that there seemed to be an ulterior motive behind suggesting De Doorns as one area for NMW hearings, and he did not agree with this.

The Chairperson felt differently, in that De Doorns was in the WC and the hearing was a Parliamentary process, where the Committee would be talking directly with workers, whereas the summit would involve representatives of workers and government leaders. She was certain that there would be no contradictions over the content of the two processes, but since whatever decisions taken at the NEDLAC summit would come through Parliament, there should be no predetermination of what workers wanted. The hearings would be to get feedback on what had transpired since the implementation of a sectoral determination in the agriculture sector of that region.

The Committee also deliberated at length over the time needed to deal with the challenges facing the Compensation Fund -- an entity of the Department of Labour -- as a Member indicated that the Auditor-General South Africa had reported that the Fund was completely dysfunctional.

The Committee adopted a resolution to deal with both draft reports on the unannounced oversight visits to the Nyanga and Bellville satellite office and labour centre at a later meeting.

Meeting report

Adoption of Minutes

Minutes of 20 August 2014

Mr M Bagraim (DA) proposed adoption of the minutes.

Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) seconded the motion.

The minutes were adopted without amendments.

Minutes of 27 August 2014

Mr I Ollis (DA) moved the adoption of the minutes.

Ms F Loliwe (ANC) seconded the motion.

The minutes were adopted without amendments.

Minutes of 5 September 2014

Mr Bagraim moved the adoption of the minutes.

Ms Van Schalkwyk seconded the motion.

The minutes were adopted without amendments.

Minutes of 10 September 2014

Ms Van Schalkwyk moved the adoption of the minutes.

Mr D America (DA) seconded the motion.

Mr Zolani Sakasa, Committee secretary informed the Committee that Mr America could not vote as he was an alternate. He could vote only when either of the two DA representatives was absent.  

Mr Bagraim then seconded the motion.

The minutes were adopted without amendments.

Minutes of 12 September 2014

Ms Loliwe moved the adoption of the minutes.

Mr M Plouamma (AGANG) seconded the motion.

The minutes were adopted without amendments.

Minutes of 17 September 2014

Mr Ollis moved the adoption of the minutes.

Ms Van Schalkwyk seconded the motion.

The minutes were adopted without amendments.

Draft Committee programme for third quarter 2014

Ms Van Schalkwyk proposed that on 15 October, the Committee should ask the Department of Labour (DOL) to brief the Committee on its quarterly and annual reports, as well as on the conditions of mineworkers. On the same day, the Committee would also have the DOL speaking about the Compensation Fund (CF), but she proposed that it should rather account for all its entities. She also proposed that the Committee should consider and adopt the Budgetary Recommendations Review Report (BRRR), with the assistance of the Standing Committee on Appropriations, on 17 October.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee might not be able to adopt the BRRR as the Committee’s report on that exercise with the Appropriations Committee still had to be compiled.

Ms Van Schalkwyk replied that she did not foresee that to be a problem because looking at programme, the Committee secretary would have enough time to compile the report and present it to the Committee before the deadline date of 24 October.

The Chairperson then asked the Committee for inputs on the proposals.

Mr Bagraim said that he might have a problem with the proposal to have the CF briefing, along with the rest of DOL entities, on 15 October. He wished to spend enough time dealing with all the issues concerning that entity, as the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) had reported that it was completely dysfunctional. The plenary debate on that day had also been informed that the CF had left SA citizens bereft. Therefore, he proposed that on 15 October the Committee should deal with the DOL’s annual report, and another date could possibly be found for the CF.

Mr Ollis said that the draft programme had already allocated a separate day – 5 November -- to look at the conditions of the mineworkers, while 9 November had been set aside to deal with the CF. He therefore could not agree with the proposals set forth until he knew what would happen to those two dates.

The Chairperson suggested that Ms Van Schalkwyk should put forward her proposals on the whole programme, instead of one by one.

Ms Van Schalkwyk apologised for omitting 16 October as another day the Committee could use for discussions with the DOL. The Committee could therefore allow the DOL two days to get through the second quarter and annual report, as well as the conditions of mineworkers.

The Chairperson reiterated that Mr Bagraim had suggested that the CF delegation should be part of the DOL contingent so that the DOL, as overseers of the CF, could speak on the reasons for its situation, and the CF delegation could also be interrogated.  Was that acceptable to the Committee?

Mr Bagraim said that all he had been asking for was a solid period of time to deal specifically with the challenges at the CF.

Ms Loliwe asked if the Committee could then agree to exhaust each topic as suggested by Ms Van Schalkwyk, rather than prioritising the CF so that  Mr Bagraim was also accommodated and the Committee would not be left with nothing to do if it exhausted all the issues with the CF in good time.

The Chairperson asked Ms Van Schalkwyk to continue, as the Committee seemed to be in agreement on the above issues.

Ms Van Schalkwyk proposed that from 21 to 24 October, the Committee should conduct an oversight visit in rural areas. On 21and 22 October, she proposed that the Committee should spend time in the Eastern Cape (EC) farming areas. This could be followed by an oversight visit to the Jeffrey’s Bay fishing communities on 23 and 24 October.  >From 27 to 31 October, the Committee could conduct public hearings.

Mr Ollis asked for clarity concerning the week following oversight in the EC, and what exactly was being moved around.

Ms Van Schalkwyk replied that the draft programme for 29 October had a briefing by the DOL on its second quarter report. Since that had been moved to 15 October, it needed to be deleted from the week starting on 27 October. Therefore on 28 and 29 October, the Committee could meet with the electricity workers in Gugulethu, and from there go on to the farm workers of De Doorns on 30 and 31 October.

The Chairperson asked what the public hearings would be on.

Ms Van Schalkwyk replied that they would be on the National Minimum Wage (NMW), as agreed upon by the Committee.

Mr Ollis said that he questioned the wisdom of conducting public hearings on the NMW at the proposed dates, as there was going to be summit organized by the Deputy President and the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). This would be a big public event, probably followed by a green or white paper and draft legislation on a minimum wage. Even though the Committee would be having the public hearing workshops to familiarise itself with the issues around the NMW, the Committee did not have anything to ask the public’s opinion on, as there was currently no green or white paper or draft legislation and regulations. Was it not better for the Committee to wait until after the summit, so that it had something to take to the public in the form of a document? He did not see how the Committee would achieve anything by upstaging the Deputy President’s summit by going to talk with the public on the NMW. The first round of workshops on the NMW was fine, as the Committee was familiarising itself with the issues. The Committee could possibly be inviting trouble by going on the proposed dates without a possible a solution in hand.

The Chairperson agreed on the Deputy President’s summit, but told Mr Ollis that two separate processes were involved. The Committee would be embarking on a Parliamentary process, whereas the Deputy President would be following a state process. Therefore whatever would be agreed upon at the NEDLAC summit would indeed come through the Committee for its approval. The opinions deliberated at NEDLAC would be those of workers, through their representatives. Similarly, opinions would be expressed at the workshops, but they would be coming directly from citizens and therefore there would be no contradictions. Seeing that the buck stopped with the Committee, there was no need to delay its processes for NEDLAC. As Members knew, public hearings were a lengthy process and the Committee had to cover as many sectors as possible so that it was not left to NEDLAC to decide, and there should not be complaints afterwards. The Committee also needed to decide which countries it should visit where the NMW had been implemented, in order to get advice on why it was a better option than any other approach.   

Ms Loliwe said that possibly there needed to be more clarity on the need for the workshops. The hearings were a continuation of the exercise of engaging with the entities that had been to the first round of workshops, instead of the Committee presenting a piece of legislation.

Mr Ollis said that he agreed that the Committee needed to conduct public hearings, but he felt quite strongly that the Committee should not go to hearings without any idea of what was planned. That generally stirred up emotions and expectations without anything in hand. In view of what had happened at Marikana and other places, the Committee really needed to consider waiting for a proposal from the DOL. Going to De Doorns at the proposed date, a town which had violent wage protests in 2013, whereafter the Minister of Labour had instituted a sector minimum wage early in 2014 -- why would the Committee then go back to the same town without a concrete proposal from the DOL on a NMW?

The Chairperson said what was available to both the Committee and even NEDLAC, was how to implement the NMW, which had been suggested in the recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) by the President, Mr Jacob Zuma. As a Committee, it could not go and suggest to the nation what it should do. It had rather to find modalities, meaning that the people needed to speak and on the basis of that dialogue, the Committee and the state would draw up a document. She reiterated that whatever decisions were taken at NEDLAC still had to be approved by Parliament. As such, Parliament did not need to wait for NEDLAC to be informed about what the populace was saying. The Committee had wanted to hear what academia thought, which was why there had been that first round of workshops. It was now for the workers to have their say. All sectors were organised, and so the hearings were to find out whether a sectoral determination among agricultural workers was the way, or the NMW. Even those that had remained with sectoral determination would be affected by the NMW, and therefore they had to be consulted. Protests were not a contradiction to the processes between government and Parliament. All that needed to happen was for Parliament to be ready by the time the NEDLAC process was finished, so that there would be no further delays.        

Mr Plouamma said that he agreed with the Chairperson, that even those who had been given an opportunity before would be included when the Committee went to the communities. Moreover the Committee wanted to experience hearing from the people directly, without mandated representatives. Taking a document to the people would be pre-emptive of what the people actually wanted, resulting in the question of why Parliament went to the people when it already knew what it thought the people wanted. 

Mr W Madisha (COPE) said that what the Committee dealt with was post-legal resolutions that were already there. For instance, domestic workers needed to receive a particular amount at the end of the month, but currently the challenge was implementing how that exact wage -- as legally stipulated -- could be received. This needed to be checked so that when NEDLAC met, the Committee would know what the current wage rate of workers was and what the actual legal rate was supposed to be. The Committee would then be able to put forward its own recommendation in terms of wages. If one spoke of NEDLAC and the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), workers went on strike because the above mentioned two processes were failing and their employers were not following the legislated wage rate. Talking about domestic workers, the legislated rate was not less than R1 900, but moving around and checking it would be found that they were not even getting R1000. If one then assured workers and did not deliver and they then went on strike, the Committee needed to go to NEDLAC and say that workers were not happy with the current state of affairs, backed up by scientific information. That scientific information needed investigation, so the Committee needed academic backing where the CCMA was unable to solve a wage dispute. Given the changes in the economic climate, the Committee could then propose, for example, a R3000 minimum wage.

The Chairperson warned the Committee that it had spent quite some time on the matter and would allow Mr Ollis one more opportunity. The fact that Members had so many inputs was giving direction on a possible way forward.

Mr Ollis reiterated that after he had heard all the inputs, it was not the first time he would have been part of public hearings, but Ms Van Schalkwyk had specifically chosen De Doorns, which had been the epicentre of violent wage protests. There had been no motivation as to why she had chosen De Doorns, when SA had nine provinces. It seemed that there was a reason behind that choice, which Mr Ollis did not agree with at all.

The Chairperson noted Mr Ollis’s recent concern with De Doorns and noted that the town was in the Cape Winelands region. Therefore she did not see his concerns being a problem, as the hearings were designed to be a feedback forum from the workers of what had transpired after the introduction of the sectoral determination. Throughout the workshops, the Committee had been bombarded by academics on how the NMW would not work in the SA economy because of various reasons. It was always better to hear from the workers why the NMW would not work as well. Furthermore, the NMW was not a sectoral tool. If people from the hearings would be saying they wanted sectoral determinations, there would still be a need to apply a NMW after agreement by everyone. Other farms in the country could always be visited, but the Cape Winelands still needed to be visited as well. The Chairperson then ruled that that issue be parked so that the whole programme could be dealt with.

Ms Van Schalkwyk then proposed that public hearings continue in the week of 4 to 7 November.  For 4 and 5 November, there were to be hearings in Marikana in the Dr Kaunda region, and 6 and 7 November would include the rest of Rustenburg in the North West. On the week of 11 to 14 November, she proposed a continuation of public hearings -- it could be discussed as to where in the Gauteng area the Committee would go. The following week of 17 to 21 November, the Committee could then open the hearings to include other industries in other provinces. The last week of November, there was a proposal for oversight visits to the textile industry on 25 and 26 November in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and then public hearings in the same industry on 27 and 28 November in the same province.

The Chairperson repeated the proposals, and asked Ms Van Schalkwyk to suggest places where the hearings could take place on the still vacant dates in Gauteng.         

Ms Van Schalkwyk replied that the dates for Gauteng had been left open for discussion, because she did not want to seem to be steamrolling the entire programme. She wanted to ensure that that particular week could be decided on by Committee consensus.

The Chairperson then asked for inputs from the Committee 

Ms Loliwe proposed that on 18 and 19 November, the Committee could carry out hearings on farms in Limpopo so that on 20 and 21 November, it could be doing the same for Mpumalanga farms.

The Chairperson asked if it would not be better to do the same in Limpopo as in KZN, were there would be two days of oversight and two of hearings.

Ms Loliwe said that would be fine, as she had noticed that the Committee would have gone to all the provinces.

The Chairperson then put it to the Committee to decide on Ms Loliwe’s proposal. Where Limpopo would have the week of 10-14 November for oversight and hearings and then Mpumalanga would have the following week of 17-21 November, doing the same programme as well.

Ms Loliwe clarified that since there were not many mines in Gauteng, she had not proposed anything for the week of 10-14 November, which Ms Van Schalkwyk had said the Committee could discuss. She asked if the Committee could not do unannounced oversight visits to the labour centres in Gauteng. She then reiterated her other proposal concerning Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Mr Ollis said that he was satisfied with the Limpopo and Mpumalanga hearings dates, but had an alternative proposal for Gauteng. He asked if the Committee could not look at hearings for the iron ore and steel industries for two days at Ekurhuleni, so that the remaining two days could be oversight visits to the labour centres in that province.

The Chairperson said that the proposals seemed straight forward, and the Committee could accept them as such.

The Management Committee (MANCO) had applied for the study tour to Brazil and Britain to see the effects of the NMW, but had not been able to secure Brazil. What remained was for Mr Sakasa to go and look again at Britain and other options. Indeed, the Members could propose other countries for the study tour, even though Brazil had other issues the Committee could consult on.

Mr Madisha said that wherever the Committee would be going to, what would the aim of the study tour be?  In Britain there were no problems in respect of domestic workers and their challenges, and the same applied to Brazil. He had been to Brazil, and could say fairly that it had nothing valuable to add in terms of metals processing.

The Chairperson replied that the tour would in not be complete without the Committee meeting its labour committee counterparts in whichever country the Committee decided to visit, just to check with them on how the NMW had affected their economies. The secretary had also been advised to seek assistance on the tour programme from the International Relations and Cooperation Committee, so that the Committee did not hear only from people who were in favour of the NMW. The Committee wanted to hear why there were those opposed the NMW as well, such as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other non-state organisations. Of course, whatever would be learned would not be simply applied in the SA context without seeing how they should be adapted to the local conditions.

Mr Ollis said that there were two things that the Committee would want to see. One would be a country that had implemented the NMW, and what effects were. The second would be how the NMW had been established for that country, and how had that mechanism and calculation been computed. If those two objectives could be achieved from the tour, then something would have been done about a mechanism for instituting a NMW for SA conditions.

The Chairperson added that the tour would include what International academics were saying about the NMW.

She asked the Committee to adopt the programme.

Ms Van Schalkwyk moved the adoption of the programme.

Mr Plouamma seconded the adoption.

The Committee programme for the third quarter was adopted, with substantial amendments.

Executive summary of workshops

The Chairperson said that the following item would be the executive summary of all the workshops the Committee had held in the past weeks.

Mr Ollis said that the Committee had only the draft report on the unannounced Committee oversight to the Nyanga and Bellville satellite office and labour centre respectively, and no executive summary.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would have to be supplied with it for reading at home. She then asked if there was anything the Committee wanted to discuss in the oversight report on the Bellville and Nyanga Labour centres.

Ms Loliwe said the seeing that the report had been sent via e-mail without the executive summary report, could the Committee be given the opportunity to submit corrections if there were any, so that the next time the Committee sat, both reports could be finalised.

The Chairperson put the proposal to the Committee.

The Committee adopted that resolution to deal with both reports at a later meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.


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