Impact of SONA on Labour sector; Committee Strategic Plan: briefing by Content Advisor/ Researcher

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Employment and Labour

04 March 2015
Chairperson: Ms L Yengeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Labour was briefed on the draft strategic plan for the goals and objectives of the Committee spanning the five-year period from 2014 to 2019. Six goals were outlined as priorities for the Committee to achieve:

  • To monitor the creation of decent employment through inclusive economic growth by ensuring that relevant legislation was adhered to;
  • To monitor the placement of youth in job opportunities and internship schemes;
  • To monitor the implementation of employment legislation to ensure, inter alia, that the workplaces reflect the demographics of the country;
  • To monitor the implementation of employment legislation to ensure that abusive work practices in atypical work and labour broking are eliminated;
  • To monitor the investigation into the introduction of a national minimum wage as one of the key mechanisms to reduce income inequality; and
  • To timeously process the bills referred to the Committee

The five-year strategic objectives of the Committee, formulated as a means of ensuring the meeting of its overall goals tactically, were to strengthen oversight over the executive in order to improve service delivery by government; improve public involvement to deepen democracy; improve international participation so as to contribute to a better and safer Africa in a better world; strengthen co-operative government to improve inter-governmental relations; and review legislation passed to realise the NDP outcomes.

Some Members were opposed to the manner in which the goals and objectives were specified in the draft document, as they contained phrases that might confuse the mandate of the Committee and what it ought to be accountable for accomplishing. It was also contended that the Committee’s goals could be seen to be not fully consistent with current legislation and the national goals that had been mandated to all state institutions. The Committee also could not reach consensus regarding what they thought would be key mechanisms to employ in their oversight of the Labour sector.

The Committee was also briefed on the implications of the State of the Nation Address (SONA)

The implications on the setting of the priorities for service delivery included encouraging private sector employment and unlocking the potential of Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), cooperatives, township and rural enterprises, reducing unemployment and harmonizing workplace relations. The Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), which guides budget decisions aimed at realising the National Development Plan (NDP), reflected that the Portfolio Committee on Labour and all associated departments were not making enough progress regarding the raising of incomes or reducing poverty. The NDP called for an economic growth of around 5% a year to reduce employment and poverty. This pointed to a need for the Committee to ensure a harmonising effort in workplace relations and addressing the issue of the National Minimum Wage – which the portfolio had already been working on.

Members agreed that was not for the Committee to comment on the SONA, because it had already been delivered and had set the mandates for the government as a whole.

Meeting report

Mr Sibongiseni Ngcobo, content researcher, briefed the Committee on the process through which the draft copy of the strategic plan had been formulated, how it would be formalised, and further explained the reasoning behind its re-drafting. The reason was that, being the strategic planning of the Portfolio Committee of Labour, it needed to be consistent with the five-year strategic plan of Parliament. As a committee that oversaw the Department of Labour (DoL) and its entities, it was also necessary to consider strategic planning of the DoL to ensure harmony between the divisions.

The Committee was briefed on the newly formulated mission statement and vision, and the values that had acted as the foundation for the formulation of the Committee’s five-year strategic objectives were outlined.

The strategic goals of the Committee were:

  • To monitor the creation of decent employment through inclusive economic growth by ensuring that relevant legislation was adhered to;
  • To monitor the placement of youth in job opportunities and internship schemes;
  • To monitor the implementation of employment legislation to ensure, inter alia, that the workplaces reflect the demographics of the country;
  • To monitor the implementation of employment legislation to ensure that abusive work practices in atypical work and labour broking are eliminated;
  • To monitor the investigation into the introduction of a national minimum wage as one of the key mechanisms to reduce income inequality; and
  • To timeously process the bills referred to the Committee

The strategic objectives of the Committee had been formulated as a means to ensuring the meeting of its overall goals tactically. The five-year strategic objectives were:

  • Strengthened oversight over the executive to improve service delivery by government;
  • Improve public involvement to deepen democracy;
  • Improved international participation, to contribute to a better and safer Africa in a better world;
  • Strengthened co-operative government to improve inter-governmental relations; and
  • Reviewed legislation passed to realise the NDP outcomes

Mr Ngcobo detailed measures that would act as a means for informing decisions and also for oversight, to ensure the strategic objectives were met within the stipulated five-year period. These included:

  • Conducting public hearings on issues of national importance;
  • Ensuring Committee meetings were open to the public.
  • Written submissions being welcomed when dealing with policy matters;
  • Ensuring ratification of international agreements and to monitor the compliance thereof;
  • Ensuring public participation in the legislative process; and
  • Ensuring that the referred legislation was in line with the NDP outcomes.

Mr Ngcobo concluded his briefing by identifying the risks posed to the achieving of the strategic goals and objectives. These were seen to be failure to conduct joint oversight visits, budget constraints and time constraints on producing outcomes. These risks could be overcome by ensuring that joint meetings with the relevant committees to decide on the Committee’s programmes were held, and that important elements of the plan were prioritised, taking the budget into consideration. The time constraints should be combated through ensuring proper planning that identified priorities for a particular period and ensured they were addressed.

Discussion

The Chairperson thanked Mr Ngcobo for his presentation and stated that the contents of the Strategic Objectives Draft Paper were important to the Committee as an internal reminder of their constitutional mandate, and acted as a means to assess their performance according to the goals set.

Mr M Bagraim (DA) said he did not see the necessity of going through the contents of the draft in detail. However, it was necessary to address the first point on page 11, under the strategic goals. The first bullet point stated “to monitor creation of decent employment…” He contended that the word “decent” was troublesome, as it was subjectively understood. He suggested that the word be left out, or that it should be formulated to read that work should be “legislatively decent”.

A second point of concern concerned the word “demographics” in the third point of page 11, under the strategic goals, as it loaded what the Committee was being mandated to perform. He suggested it be changed to, “to reflect the relevant demographics”.

As a third point of concern, Mr Bagraim suggested the Committee change a sentence to read “all abusive work practices,” and not currently what it stated in the fourth point of the strategic goals listed on page 11, as the Committee had been mandated to cover these practices in all forms of labour. He also insisted that the fifth point should include “as a possible mechanism,” and should not read “as a key mechanism”, as it was a loaded statement that limited the work embarked on by the Committee.

The Chairperson said that Members should express whether or not they agreed with Members’ statements when they provided input, as they were seen to be not listening attentively. The silence of the other Members could be assumed to be complicity with what had previously been said.

Mr I Ollis (DA) raised a concern regarding a grammatical error on the eighth page, section 3.3 on Co-operative Government, as the words “must/should” were missing. There was another error on page 13, in the third point of the proposed strategic priorities for the Fifth Parliament, which should exclude the words “for a”. The first point of the strategic goals listed on page 11 should speak only to the practice of “monitoring creation of inclusive economic growth.” He agreed with Mr Bargraim that the word “decent” should be removed. The Committee could not create labour or implement economic growth, as the goal stated. The goal obligated the Committee to tasks that were outside of the scope of its mandate, and could render the word “decent” a point of friction between different entities regarding what they should be held accountable for.

Ms P Mantashe (ANC) said she appreciated the work of the content advisor and responded to the suggestions made by Mr Bargraim and Mr Ollis by stating that the issue of creating ‘decent’ employment was one that the Committee could not escape, as they oversaw the Department of Labour. This mandate had been adopted in Mangaung by the political party that led the country, and the expression “to strive towards the creation of decent employment” was therefore a national mandate with which the goals and objectives of the Committee ought to be consistent. She did, however, understand the concern put forward by her fellow Members. She suggested that the fourth goal listed on page 11 should not be changed, but should include the word ‘including’, to prevent the loading of the words pointed out by fellow Members.

Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) said she appreciated the good work of the content advisor and agreed with the suggestion and sentiments expressed by Ms Mantashe.

Ms F Loliwe (ANC) commended the content advisor on his good work. She required clarity on the commentary provided by him on the tenth page, stipulating the policy mandate of the Committee. The points raised on the eleventh page of the document were not issues of concern, as Mr Bagraim was effectively agreeing with what had already been stated, and there was no contradiction because the legislative processes of the country had already set the precedent for what constituted decent work. She did not see a need for a change with regard to the comment made about demographics, as it was made in consideration of the Employment Equity Act (EEA) policy

Ms T Tongwane (ANC) thanked the content advisor for the briefing on the draft document and requested a change be made to page 7, under the mission statement, and proposed that they add another bullet-point that spoke to lobbying for the development of scarce skills.

Mr Ollis clarified his previous comment, saying that he had no issue with the word “decent”. He had an issue with the statement regarding the creating of economic growth, as he was concerned about the obligation it created for the Committee. Mr Bagraim’s complaints were only attempting to ensure that the commitments of the Committee reflected the law, and did not create obligations for the Committee outside of the law.

Mr Bagraim suggested the content advisor should insert Ms Mantashe’s definition of the word into the statement. If the definition was reflective of legislation, then he would not contest it.

The Chairperson then instructed the content advisor to add the words suggested by Members, as they were correct to say that it was not the task of the Committee to create jobs. She requested the presenter to phrase the new sentence, so that the Committee had knowledge that the statement had been changed within the meeting to reflect the discussion.

The statements were changed and the Committee agreed.

Ms Mantashe questioned whether the Committee was repeating itself in inserting the words ‘as per legislation’.

The Committee agreed, and the changes were made.

The Chairperson then moved to the matter of changes that needed to be made to the statement regarding the demographics.

Ms Mantashe said that the inclusion of the “EEA” statement was not necessary, as she merely had made mention of it to point out the varying understandings of the concept by Members

Mr Ollis said he was content with the addition of the word “relevant,” because the law regulated matters regarding the demographics of labour, and not the Committee.

Ms Mantashe responded that everything done by the Committee was mandated by legislation. The inclusion of the word ‘relevant’ was irrelevant, because all the proceedings were done as per legislation, which decides the relevance of any matter.

The Chairperson said that what had been raised by Mr Ollis was already there, and there was no particular need to include the word ‘relevant’ to the goal stipulated on page 11.

Ms Loliwe said that the Committee did not have an issue, as reference had already been made to legislation.

Mr Ollis responded that there were currently issues within the Constitutional Court over what constituted the demographics in the country, and that the statement, as it was, was bound to obligate the Committee to trouble, as the term was heavily contested. The term ‘demographics’ provided no indication of what demographics the Committee would concern itself with, be it national or provincial. The laws had also changed regarding the term ‘demographics,’ so it was unwise to include it in the strategic goals of the Committee.

The Chairperson asked what law Mr Ollis was making reference to.

Mr Ollis responded that the draft copy of new Labour Relations Act stated that it should reflect national demographics. It was then changed to regional demographics, and if the Committee were to leave the statement as was, it would render it inconsistent with the legislation.

The Chairperson asked if there was any actual formalised law acting as a hindrance to leaving the statement as it was.

Mr Bagraim said that there was a formalised law hindering the passing of the statement as it stood.

Ms Loliwe stated that inserting the word ‘relevant’ was actually what would be raising issues of concern, as the Committee was going to be asked what it deemed to be relevant.

Ms Mantashe agreed with Ms Loliwe, and stated that there was no race in the country that was not relevant. The statement, as it was, could stand without any necessary specification.

The Chairperson reiterated support for rejecting the word ‘relevant’.

Mr Ollis stated that he would retract the word ‘relevant’ if the Committee ensured they were reiterating what the law had currently stated.

The Chairperson asked what act of legislation Mr Ollis was making reference to.

Mr Bagraim stated that it was the Employment Equity Act.

Mr Ollis stated he did not have a hard copy to provide reference, as he had not prepared for this, but he assured the Committee that it was indeed there.

Ms Mantashe said that if Mr Ollis and Mr Bargraim were making reference to the EEA, they were referring to had already been said regarding legislation. The Committee need not reiterate the contents of EEA, as it was already considered as a document of reference.

Mr Bagraim proposed that changes be made to the third goal on page 11 to read: “to monitor the implementation of employment legislation.” This would leave out the word ‘demographics’ and exclude the need for “‘relevant”. This change also avoided the issue of repetition.

Ms Mantashe said that the sentence should have been left as it was, and Members ought to leave with the understanding that the Committee was indeed following the EEA. There was nothing to add. The EEA was merely a tool to implement what the document stated. However, it need not be explicitly stated in the document.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee could pass the motion

Mr Ollis stated that he was not content if the words -- as they stood in the legislation -- were not included in the statement.

The Chairperson said that the Committee did not have the official documentation that could act as a legal reference point. She suggested that the Committee should rather return to the issue when the legal advisor could be present to provide legal advice, as it was not the content advisor’s scope of work.

The Committee agreed.

The Chairperson then moved on to the matter of changing point five on page 11 of the strategic goals. The statement was changed to include the word ‘possible’, to move away from the word “only” in terms of the mechanisms the Committee could employ to achieve its aims.

Ms Loliwe questioned whether, when the Committee used the word ‘possible’, it came across as unsure of what mechanisms to employ to reach its objectives, as they had already embarked on various initiatives to effect change within the sector.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was sure the mechanisms listed were not the only means. However, it was seeking the correct formulation of the sentence.

Mr Ollis said he was not happy with the conclusion made that the mechanism listed was a possible mechanism to achieve the Committee’s aims, as it had no reports to validate the claim. He suggested the Committee should move away from the statement and what it implicated for the Committee as a whole.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was only checking locally to see if the mechanism was going to reduce inequalities within the labour sector. She asked Mr Ollis to agree that the changing of the word would not make a difference. The Committee itself was going to be the true effector of a difference, regardless of the magnitude, or whether or not they agreed.

Mr Ollis said he was pleased that the record would reflect that he did not agree with what was being suggested, as the Democratic Alliance (DA) saw a sectoral minimum wage rather than a national minimum wage as being effective in increasing the wages of workers.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee could pass the matter and move to the suggestion made by Ms Tongwane

Ms Van Schalkwyk said she agreed with the suggestion made by Ms Tongwane

The Chairperson commended the content advisor on the efforts presented and concluded the session for recess, as there were no more points of concern raised.

Analysis of the State of the Nation Address (SONA)

Mr Ekhsaan Jawoodeen, content researcher, briefed the Committee on the State Of the Nation address and provided an analysis of the implications for the Committee.

The implications on the setting of the priorities for service delivery included encouraging private sector employment and unlocking the potential of Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), cooperatives, township and rural enterprises, reducing unemployment and harmonizing workplace relations.

The Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), which guides budget decisions aimed at realising the National Development Plan (NDP), reflected that the Portfolio Committee on Labour and all associated departments were not making enough progress regarding the raising of incomes or reducing poverty. The NDP called for an economic growth of around 5% a year to reduce employment and poverty. This pointed to a need for the Committee to ensure a harmonising effort in workplace relations and addressing the issue of the National Minimum Wage – which the portfolio had already been working on.

Discussion

Mr Bagraim commended Mr Jawoodeen on an excellent report. He went on to say that was not for the Committee to comment on the SONA because it had already been delivered and had set the mandates for the government as a whole.

Ms Loliwe reiterated Mr Bagraim’s sentiments on the delivery of a good report and the lack of a need for commentary by Members. She proposed that as a matter of process, it be a formality that all documents relating to any presentation to be made, be submitted prior to a meeting to ensure that all Members were able to engage fully with presented matters.

The Chairperson also commended the excellence of both presenters’ efforts and said that the meeting would reconvene on Wednesday to finalise unfinished matters.

The Committee briefly discussed other matters regarding the visits of the Committee and the logistical scheduling thereof.

The meeting was adjourned

 

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