Nedlac & Work Programme of Labour Market Chamber: briefing

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Employment and Labour

17 April 2000
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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 April 2000
NEDLAC AND THE WORK PROGRAMME OF THE LABOUR MARKET CHAMBER: BRIEFING

Documents handed out:
Nedlac and the Work Programme of the Labour Market Chamber (see Appendix 1)

Nedlac website www.nedlac.org.za


Chairperson Mr M S Manie

The Executive Director of Nedlac Mr Phillip Dexter, and the Co-ordinator of Labour Market Chamber, Ms Liesel Kostlich, spoke on Nedlac and the Work Programme of the Labour Market Chamber (see briefing document). Other points made were:
- that an incorrect perception is being created that business and labour are at loggerheads;
- Nedlac is setting up an office in Cape Town in order to be closer to Parliament.

Ms Thabethe (ANC) wished to know whether Nedlac had any proposal on how to facilitate the relationship it seeks with Parliament. She sought clarification on how those without access to Internet can access information about Nedlac issues.

Mr Dexter suggested the relationship may be facilitated by seminars, workshops and consultations. Nedlac will attempt to make all necessary information accessible, and this is the reason why Nedlac has begun to make use of radio broadcasts and road-shows. Nedlac has a mailing list and everybody is welcome to submit his/her name.

Mr Maphalala (ANC) said that when Mr Dexter had spoken about research and capacity building that such capacity building would be both internal and external, but seemingly Nedlac seem to be concentrating only internally. This practice prevents information from filtering down to the youth, for example, who are not normally exposed to labour issues.

Mr Dexter said that Nedlac has organised summits, work-shops and conferences where constituencies will be able to participate effectively and voice their concerns.

Mr Rasmeni (ANC) asked whether Nedlac has mechanisms in place to monitor whether the bodies with which it interacted, did report back to their constituencies.

Mr Dexter said there had been no such mechanisms before. However, such mechanisms are now being put in place and he referred to a meeting they would be attending that very day which would be dealing with this issue.

Mr Ndou (ANC) praised Nedlac's initiatives - he said most of the moves made by Nedlac were what the committee had in mind and meant to communicate to Nedlac.

Mr Bruce (DP) wanted to know what was it that Nedlac could do that the committee could not do.

Mr Dexter said Nedlac can actively manage the social dialogue in such a manner that Parliament is not able to do - Nedlac is supposed to be an intelligent management structure. Nedlac can effectively address the legacy of the past, and it is for this reason that there ought to be a viable interaction between Nedlac and Parliament.

Mr Maphalala commented that Mr Bruce question as to whether government had erred in establishing Nedlac is misdirected and should not be entertained in the meeting.

However Mr Dexter said the question reflected a widely held view, and it was therefore imperative that Nedlac utilise means to articulate its role.

The Chairperson concluded that there is an evident need to understand and discuss Nedlac's role and a mailing list must be extended to all committee members with immediate effect. The committee should hold an annual meeting with the Labour Market Chamber. Further, he said the initiative should not be on Nedlac alone but the committee needs to do likewise. He added that Nedlac will have to look at how it can restructure internally to make this committee more useful to it. He expressed hope that the committee and Nedlac will in future have a fruitful relationship. The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix 1:
PRESENTATION TO THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON LABOUR ON NEDLAC AND THE WORK PROGRAMME OF THE LABOUR MARKET CHAMBER

BACKGROUND
Nedlac has recently appointed a new Executive Director (ED). Prior to this there was a period of almost a year with an acting head of the secretariat. Apart from the general effect of the uncertainty created by such a situation, a number of public statements and a debate placed doubt on the future of the institution. At the time of the appointment of the new ED the Nedlac constituencies made a strong commitment to the building of Nedlac and to social dialogue. One of the key issues relating to Nedlac has been that of its relationship with Parliament and in particular to the Portfolio Committees and their Chairs.

General discussions on the role of Nedlac have been held with a number of Parliamentary Committee Chairs. The discussions were positive in that they have begun to clarify a number of issues regarding the relationship between Nedlac and Parliament. Further discussions and interactions are needed, especially of this nature with the Committee.

Along with Parliament, the Portfolio Committee and the Department of Labour, Labour Market Chamber in Nedlac has been central to the transformation of Labour Market Policy since NEDLAC's establishment in February 1995

KEY ISSUES FACING NEDLAC
Like any institution NEDLAC's role and function is one that cannot be static. Discussion is therefore ongoing as to the future role of Nedlac. There are clearly enormous challenges facing our country, among which the socio-economic are the key ones. Nedlac has to therefore focus the constituencies on broad strategic issues of addressing the legacy of apartheid, the challenge of globalisation and the development of a society in which there is socio-economic justice. In this regard each constituency has something to contribute. It is therefore evident that building an overarching vision that government, business, labour and the community can all support is the key challenge for Nedlac at this point in time. Defining a vision for an institution and managing change is a complex process, especially in an institution where the key role players are periodically distracted from the institution. A key challenge is therefore to get the constituencies to focus on the institution and their relationships.

Social dialogue is itself not static. As our society develops so does the form, content and nature of social dialogue. There is clearly a tendency to make social dialogue less formal and less bureaucratic as our democracy matures. This means that Nedlac has to learn how to function in the new and changing environment. Fortunately Nedlac is not a big institution, is fairly flexible and is itself quite new. It nonetheless requires attention from the secretariat.

The capacity of the secretariat at Nedlac is fairly limited. Steps have been taken to strengthen capacity, including new financial systems, a new human resource management framework and a new work organisation framework. Interviews will soon be conducted to employ a new Program Director and a second Researcher. Nedlac has also opened an office in Cape Town with a view to bringing the institution closer to Parliament.

The issue of the sovereignty of Parliament has been raised by many of the Committee Chairs spoken to. It is clear the difficulties in the relationship between Nedlac and Parliament do not simply turn on the lack of contact with the institution or its members, although this was raised as being a factor. There is clearly a strong sense of disempowerment among certain of the Members of Parliament in relation to Nedlac. A great deal of emphasis will have to be put on strengthening the relationship between Nedlac and Parliament. A debate about and the clarification of the role of Nedlac and its powers and functions should address the issue of the sovereignty of Parliament, since the Constitution is clear on this matter.

FUNCTIONING OF THE LABOUR MARKET CHAMBER
The Nedlac Act requires that all proposed labour legislation relating to labour market policy be considered in Nedlac before it is introduced in Parliament. The Labour Market Chamber seeks to reach consensus and make agreements for placing before the Executive Council on all matters pertaining to the world of work and the associated institutions of delivery.

The Labour Relations Act was the first of four new pieces of labour legislation. Followed by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Employment Equity Act and the Skills Development Act. Together these represent a framework that promotes stable labour relations, limits exploitation, prohibits discrimination and increases investment in training and development. The primary benefit of these pieces of legislation being negotiated in Nedlac is co-ownership of this dispensation by the constituencies. The success of implementation is largely dependent on the commitment of the social partners in educating, supporting and complying with the statutory requirements.

Nedlac and the Labour Market Chamber could play a significant role in the facilitating effective implementation and monitoring. Further consideration and clarity regarding this role and the contribution of stakeholders is necessary.

The labour legislation framework has created numerous tripartite statutory bodies that are primarily responsible for monitoring implementation. Government is currently establishing mechanisms to promote better coordination and cooperation between these structures.

KEY ISSUES ON THE CHAMBER'S WORK PROGRAMME
· Unemployment Insurance bill.
· International migration.
· HlV/ Aids
Pre-employment testing.
Code of good practice.
· Amendment to section 154 of the LRA.
· Social security.

AD HOC FUNCTIONS OF THE CHAMBER
· Demarcation of sectors and areas for bargaining and statutory councils.
· ILO conventions.
· Nominations to various committees and statutory bodies.

EXPECTED ISSUE
· Labour law review.


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