Basic Conditions of Employment Bill [b98-97]: hearing

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Labour

26 October 1997
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Meeting report

MINUTES OF PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON LABOUR
27 OCTOBER 1997

HEARING OF EVIDENCE ON BASIC CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT BILL [B98-97]

Public submissions were heard from:
Mr Sebastion Pistor
South African Chamber of Business (SACOB)
FIBASA & Freeman Foundation
Mr Kevin Bohling (SA Navy)
Small Business Project
South African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC)
Disabled People South Africa
South African Association of Homes for Aged (SAAHA)
South African Agriculture Union (SAAU)

Mr Sebastion Pistor described himself as a member of the public now involved in forming an organisation for media personnel. He wants the term "registered trade union" changed to "employees organisation" as he feels the term "trade union" is considered derogatory. He objected to the exclusions in Section 3, as it was tantamount to labour. Working hours should be considered with due regard to family responsibilities. He also suggested that Saturday should be treated like a Sunday with double pay. Four months maternity leave is too long and he suggested three months with a limit to two pregnancies per employee.

Mr Arendse, Elizabeth Thabethe and Brian Bunting questioned Mr Pistor. Replying to Ms Thabethe, he conceded that women have a constitutional right over their own bodies. He congratulated the Minister on producing a Bill in plain English.

Four members represented SACOB. They have 40 000 members with 80% of that amount being small businesses. They said that there is nothing derogatory in using the term "trade unions". They made a special plea for small businesses. A 40-hour working week will hamper small businesses. They believe that hours should be negotiated and family leave would be counter-productive and hamper the goals of GEAR.
The Chairperson asked if the Bill should not mention a 40-hour working week and wanted SACOB to clarify their problem with the section on overtime pay. SACOB replied that there's no provision for exemption. It was said that there should be no extra pay for Sundays when it was an ordinary working day. The Bill does set minimum standards, which they support, but the 40-hour working week should be negotiated.

On behalf of Fibasa, Mr Swanepoel, speaking from his personal experience in the waste industry, said that limiting overtime to 3 hours a week would be very restrictive. It would be essential to keep overtime to 15 hours and not 10 hours. They operate on a 7-day week, as it was essential for the tourist trade. Their organisation cannot operate normal hours, as they needed flexibility. An employer of a small clothing factory described the difficulties of the industry. He said that it had taken him 5 years to pay off his machinery and wages were 60% of his turnover. He claimed that he would be unable to pay his 4 or 5 women maternity leave.

Mr Bunting asked about Fibasa and was told that it was a group of employers too small to join SACOB and they were mainly from the Mitchells Plain/Athlone area. Fibasa objected to the restriction of working between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. as no other country followed those restrictions. The organisation said that they would be happy if the restrictions were between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
 
Mr K. M. Bohling spoke in his personal capacity as a naval officer. He asked for the inclusion of 75 000 uninformed members of the SANDF in the Bill. He pointed out that the police and prison services are included in the Bill. The ultimate irony is that in the event of an emergency, the navy would have to defend the SA Constitution yet they are excluded from it. Mr Bohling said there was a need for a trade union, especially as the lack thereof has given superiors the right to ignore their representations. He also had a thick file of complaints by servicemen, which were ignored or contemptuously dealt with.

Mr Tony Leon thought the committee should possibly call the navy chief to hear why this exclusion exists. Increasingly the Department of Defence is called upon to back up the police. Does it mean that the police will receive 1,5 overtime rates but not the navy? The answer was yes. There was no provision made for overtime for the navy. It was then stated that there was a provision for overtime but it was not applied as senior management had the right to decide. To challenge it in court would cost 30 or 40 thousand rand.

Mr Keith Herman, representing the Small Business Project, read his written submission. He said that South African's needs must be considered and was concerned about costs.

Mr Leon asked whether small businesses should be defined not only by the number of employees but also by its turnover. The answer was yes.

The spokesperson from South African Catholic Bishops Conference argued extensively about government intervention in avoiding exploitation. The free market economy does not protect workers. No flexibility should be allowed to employers to avoid the provisions of the Act, as this would open the door to immoral tendencies.

The Disabled People of South Africa commented that disabled people were amongst the poorest of the poor. They face major disempowerment and are dependent on their families and the State. Even those who are skilled are discriminated against. They want to be included in the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill and they want more flexibility for those with severe disabilities.

The South African Association of Homes for the Aged objected to reduction in working hours and the increase in overtime payment. They could not afford this, nor could they afford double pay for Sundays and public holidays or provide transport home for night workers. Unless their special needs are met, the Minister had a "recipe" for shutting down their 82 Frail Aged Homes.

The South African Agricultural Union, represented by Peter Erasmus and Analise Cosby (legal advisor), pleaded for understanding of farmers' special needs. Biological processes determine needs in this field and flexibility is essential. Messrs Bunting, Arendse and Chuenyane challenged the farmers for obstructing unionisation, access to farms and for confusing negotiations with issuing orders.

Mr Erasmus referred to a previous visit by the committee members and invited them to return. The South African Municipal Workers' Union, a COSATU affiliate, raised concerns over the Bill's enforcement and compliance. Unless it was properly enforced it would be worthless and would encourage non-compliance. The National Domestic Union and the South African Council of Chambers were both supposed to present their submissions but did not turn up.

In response to the Committees advertised invitation, the following submitted written documents:
Department of Works, Ulundi
Someone from Nawabe
Dedericks Ruele from IBM, South Africa
Gladman Shange from Sandton Sun
M. B. Ndlela
Society for the Prevention of Animals. Mr M. G. Hofman, from Review Times asked for the exclusion of the charitable organisations from the Bill.
Rustenberg Platinum Mines Ltd, Union Section. F. J. Steyn, full time union representative, raised 7 points for review.
Association of Housing Agencies. M. E. Jacobs, Chairperson of 25 000 people, stated that their members would be made jobless due to unaffordability of the prescripts of the proposed Bill.
The Free Market Foundation, prepared by Temba Nolutshungu, called for a "freer economy"

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