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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 August 2005
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE REPORT AND COMMISSION ON EMPLOYMENT EQUITY ANNUAL REPORT: CONSIDERATION
Chairperson: Ms O Kasienyane (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Committee Draft Report on International Labour Organisation Conference
Committee Report on briefings of the Commission on Employment Equity Annual Report 2003/04[shortly available at Committee Reports]
The Committee heard that at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conference held in Geneva from 6-16 June 2005, four sub-committees had focused on fishing, occupational health and safety, the application of standards, and youth employment. Broad issues of employment and governments had been discussed, as well as the situation of Zimbabwean workers. South Africa had played an important role at the conference and was regarded as a leader on labour issues. The Committee recommended that a public hearing be held to discuss skills development and youth employment.
The Committee agreed that the Committee Report on briefings on the Commission on Employment Equity Annual Report 2003/04, held on 31 May and 1 June 2005, required further study and recommendations. Input from the Department of Labour would be requested and the report would then be tabled before Parliament.
The Chairperson briefed the Members on the general structure of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conference. She explained that there had been four committees dedicated to fishing, occupational health and safety, the application of standards, and youth employment. Issues included employment, employers, workers, and governments.
The Chairperson noted that it was imperative that more delegates attend the next conference. Although there was a problem with funding, the experience of listening to different countries debating labour issues was invaluable. South Africa was seen as a leader on labour matters, both internationally, and on the African continent.
Mr L Maduna (ANC) added that the experience had allowed him to make comparisons in terms of international standards. He participated as an observer on the Fishing Committee. This helped him to understand the challenges facing the industry internationally. Some countries were monopolising the fishing industry, necessitating legislation to prevent poaching. Much deliberation took place on workers’ rights as improvements needed to be made in accommodation, medical care, and food. Discussion took place on the application of legislation when the vessel was not in waters under the jurisdiction of a particular country. It was agreed that the country of origin should be held responsible for workers on fishing vessels, irrespective of where the vessel was located.
In Asian countries, fishing was a big industry and this had led to congestion of vessels in their waters. To ease this, smaller vessels were used. Workers’ rights remained the same, irrespective of the size of the vessels or the waters in which they were fishing.
Mr Maduna commented that there were challenges in South Africa but attendance at the ILO Conference gave access to international standards and helped the Committee to make better informed interventions when problems arose.
Another important issue raised was the question of Zimbabwe, and workers’ rights. There was the impression that Zimbabwe was doing nothing in this area. However, some labour movements present were supportive and felt that the Zimbabwean government was moving forward. The ILO concluded that the issue of workers’ rights had been politicised but that the government of Zimbabwe should accelerate the process, and comply with the ILO Convention. Mr Maduna observed that at times the issue of workers’ rights was used to drive political agendas.
Mr C Lowe (DA) reported on the Application of Standards Committee he had attended. He said it had been a great privilege to attend the conference and he was now a great deal more informed about many issues. He also agreed that a greater number of delegates should attend the next conference. The Committee had covered international labour standards. There was much debate over their application, and this debate did not always lead to a successful conclusion.
His attendance at the Africa Group was also fruitful, as issues like Swaziland and Zimbabwe were put on the table. Although there was not always agreement, the discussion was open and honest. The group had been addressed by the Presidents of Algeria and Nigeria, and the overall impression for him was the realisation that all South Africans were Africans with a combined future.
He added that it was vital to acknowledge the important role that South Africa played in the conference. South African workers and employers addressed plenary sessions and participated in discussions and decision-making. South Africa was very well respected. The role of international agencies should not be underestimated.
Prince N Zulu (IFP) asked whether other countries, apart from Zimbabwe and Swaziland, were discussed. He noted that President Obasanjo had made a statement regarding the reduction of poverty and youth unemployment. He asked if there had been concrete advice from the President on how to face this challenge. Poverty and unemployment in Nigeria did not appear to be as serious as it was in South Africa.
The Chairperson replied that President Obasanjo had mentioned the problem of youth unemployment but had not discussed solutions.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) requested that the delegates who attended the conference hold a small workshop for the whole of the Portfolio Committee to highlight important information and exchange ideas. Regarding youth unemployment, she asked if the delegation had any ideas on how to overcome the situation in South Africa, which faced massive unemployment of its youth. She asked if there was any way to facilitate employment after completion of education.
Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) agreed that South Africans should all work together for the good of the country. The youth were important and youth unemployment was a global challenge. The possible consequences of a lack of access to decent employment needed to be considered. He referred to Oliver Tambo’s statement that a country that did not invest in its youth had no future. These words should be remembered and much work should be put into investing in South Africa’s youth, and so investing in the country’s future.
He also discussed the lack of relevant skills and labour market information. He emphasised that there should be an alignment with tertiary institutions and what they were teaching, and what skills industry required. He agreed with the report’s observation that governments needed space in the formulation of policies, and should place growth and employment at the centre of their national policies. The South African government had played a crucial role in ensuring that growth went with employment. However, there were still threats of retrenchment, and the abandonment of workers was an issue which needed addressing.
Policies needed to be adopted to address these issues, within government and within the private sector. In the past there had been engagement with the Umsobomvu Youth Fund to address youth and unemployment. Skill shortages should be addressed to assist in self employment and employment in the private sector. He added that in May, the youth in his constituency had marched demanding job creation from the private sector. Action needed to be taken by government, the private sector, and tertiary institutions, to address these needs.
Mr Rasmeni also called for a public hearing on an alignment between education and skills, linked to the skills shortage in the labour market. Private companies were looking elsewhere for skilled labour, and appropriate training of youth could alleviate this.
The Chairperson pointed out that they had attended the conference as observers. She suggested that along with the Department of Labour, all delegates should attend a workshop where proposals could be made and discussed. The workshop would cover all issues raised.
Mr Rasmeni replied that he did not think a workshop was an adequate structure to discuss conclusively the issue of education and skills. A public hearing including the private sector, educators, and government would call on all institutions and provide a wider input into skills development.
He added that the United Kingdom through its African partnership initiative had expressed a willingness to support member states on their approaches to youth employment. He asked whether any assistance had been requested from the UK.. [There was no reply to this question].
The Chairperson proposed that the Committee come up with a clear proposal and decide who should be invited to the public hearing. She suggested that the Department of Labour be called in to assist and clarify issues. The public hearing could not be finalised without input from the Department.
Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) seconded the proposal that the Department come in for a fuller briefing. He felt there were a number of issues that needed deeper understanding eg. fishing, social security, casualisation. Once this had been done recommendations could be made.
The Chairperson said that she was not trying to evade questions but it had been difficult at the conference to get entire reports as the Committee only had three delegates. The Department had had representatives at each session.
Mr Maduna agreed with the Chairperson. The Committee should also note an important call by President Obasanjo regarding the cancellation of debt. Even if debt was cancelled those countries still needed a lifeline and an input of resources. If not supported those countries would face unemployment. In Africa many of the youth were involved in wars and when these ended they became unemployed. The responsibility did not rest solely with the government – partnerships like NEDLAC should engage the challenge to create massive employment. The Chairperson observed that many people were negative about NEDLAC and that it needed strengthening.
Mr Lowe said that he had brought a number of reports and documents back from the conference. While the conference had not always provided very direct answers, there were some recommendations. This year there was much more emphasis on youth. Although there were not many answers it did provide an overview of discussions.This literature was available to all Members.
Mr Rasmeni suggested that the entire Committee attend the next conference. The information gathered should then be shared with labour, government, business and the wider community. Questions raised should be discussed with the Department of Labour. He also commented on the fact that only two women were part of the South African delegation and said steps should be taken to ensure gender equity.
The Chairperson replied that the entire Committee could only go if a special budget was obtained, and possibly the Department of Labour could assist. The gender issue would be raised with the Department. Mr Maduna pointed out that some of the government delegates at the conference resided overseas, so had not necessarily travelled from South Africa. This might be a reason for the gender imbalance.
The Chairperson concluded the discussion by saying that the proposals had been noted and would be prioritised on the next programme. After the recess the Department would be called in and a decision would be made as to whether a parliamentary debate was necessary. Parliament needed to know what was happening at the ILO.
The Chairperson discussed the Employment Equity Report. She noted that the Department had represented the Commission and that all the information had not been supplied. This was because the Minister was in the process of appointing Commissioners. This was therefore a report from the Department and the Black Management Forum. She proposed that this report be adopted at the following meeting.
Mr Mzondeki commented that more work needed to be done on the recommendations at the end of the report. It should be looked at as a draft requiring more input. Once this had been done its adoption could be dealt with. All Members supported this and the Chairperson asked that they go through the report thoroughly.
Mr Mzondeki said that the new Commission had been appointed and asked if the Committee wanted them to comment on this report. The Chairperson replied that the new Commission would not assist with this report. The Committee should engage with the Department of Labour as they had briefed the Committee on behalf of the Commission.
Mr Rasmeni proposed that the Members read the report, forward the final draft to the Department, and invite their comment. Once this had been done, the report could be tabled before Parliament. The Chairperson agreed and instructed the Members to study the report and make clear recommendations.
The meeting was adjourned.