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

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Employment and Labour

28 October 1997
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

28 October 1997

Public oral submissions were heard from
Business South Africa
Association of Personnel Services Organisation
Industrial Health Research Group (UCT)
Masabelane / National Union of Domestic Workers
Afrikaanse Handelinstituut
Emerging Business Front
Gray Security Services

A submission was made by Mr Hans Smith on behalf of Business South Africa (BSA). BSA is an association of 19 business organisations and represents 8590 employers in South Africa, large and small. BSA strongly opposed the Bill, which had been as a result of negotiations between COSATU and the ANC, excluding businesses. Mr Smith said that BSA widely supported the need for a floor of worker’s rights and the need for a 45- hour working week. BSA strongly opposed the goal of a 40-hour working week and an increase in overtime premiums, which in steel industries, for example, is estimated to add 231 million to the annual wage. Reduction in working hours and an increase in leave will reduce the annual working hours in South Africa by 16%. It will amount to 53 working days below the average for comparable countries (comparable per capita GDPs). BSA feels the consequences of the Bill being passed will be very serious for the South African economy – this will be in conflict with GEAR. It would not lead to employment or investment. Fewer working hours and increased wage costs would seriously and detrimentally affect the country’s economic growth.

Sam Shilowa presented the submission on behalf of COSATU. He opened up by referring to the relationship between COSATU and the ANC. He said that they are proud of that alliance as it has got them where they are and will take them through to transform the country. Mr Shilowa stressed the importance of shaping a better labour regime, which meant moving away from the years of repression. He said that COSATU was not leaving businesses out of the amendments but they are not partners. Working hours, in comparison to a whole range of countries, should be looked at. Mr Shilowa stated that the Bill is a very important, fundamental piece of legislation as it also incorporates farm and domestic workers. The "variation section" needs to be protected from downward variation. The notice period should be a core issue and cannot be varied, as well as working hours and paid maternity leave. Provisions for women are especially important as they were discriminated against under Apartheid, e.g. having an abortion to save their jobs.

Tony Leon (DP) asked how the Bill affected unemployment and about the wide powers of intervention of the Minister. Shilowa said that COSATU opposed the wide ministerial powers and, in the latest amendment, these are limited. Regarding the relationship between the amount of working hours and economic growth, Shilowa replied that it was a complex relationship. China had a 40-hour working week and other factors are involved, such as government policy. Concerning foreign investment, investors looked at many factors and working hours was not on the top of their list. COSATU called for job-sharing and more workers.

Cosatu also submitted a document, Cosatu's Response to the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill of October 1997, which outlines its amendment proposals plus motivation.

The following submissions were also presented: Gray Security Services and the Industrial Health Research Group (UCT).

Note: These minutes are an incomplete record of the meeting.


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