National Economic Development & Labour Council’s Working Programme

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Meeting report

LABOUR, PUBLIC ENTERPRISE AND COMMUNICATIONS SELECT COMMITTEE
14 February 2001
NATIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND LABOUR COUNCIL’S WORKING PROGRAMME

Chairperson: Mr S L E Fenyane

Documents handed out:
NEDLAC and national priorities: Slide presentation
Nedlac Newsletter
Nedlac Brochure

NEDLAC website: www.nedlac.org.za

SUMMARY
Committee members were given an overview of the workings of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) whose goal is to promote dialogue amongst Government, Labour and Business in the country. Since 1994 Nedlac’s work has expanded to include research and summits on issues pertaining to the economic growth of the country.

Though some members were impressed by what Nedlac achieves on its budget of R6.5 million, others wondered whether the nation was getting value for its money out of Nedlac.

MINUTES
NEDLAC presentation
In his introductory remarks, Mr Dexter, Executive Director of Nedlac, told Members that his organization was a tripartite institution comprised of Government, Labour and Business. The crux of his organization lay in facilitating dialogue between government and its partners, a process deemed essential to good governance.

Labour and business began to enter into a dialogue with one another in South Africa in the mid to late 1980s. This process gained momentum when the past government began to negotiate with its political adversaries. Under the new democratic government, he said, this process was being consolidated and expanded.

Mr Dexter noted that the previous apartheid government left a social deficit in several areas. Investment under the previous regime was not forthcoming, skilled personnel was lacking and the infrastructure faced a massive backlog.

Assessing performance of the economy since 1994, the economy has been improving although there is still room for higher growth rates. The delivery of housing is on track although there is some dissatisfaction with the quality of the houses being delivered. The people of this country will have to work hard to position South Africa in a positive way to foreign investors.

The role of Nedlac has been to consolidate itself and to promote social dialogue between Government, Labour and Business and to monitor the implementation of the agreements reached between those parties. He said around 1998/99 Nedlac’s image was dented as the public perceived it in different ways but since then those bottlenecks have been removed.

Last year Nedlac held a conference in which several declarations were made (see Appendix). The key issue is for the economy to benefit a broad spectrum of our society.

Mr Dexter elaborated on the structure of Nedlac, its constituencies and the secretariat, which has an annual budget of R6.5 million. He said his Nedlac’s constituencies consist of business and labour, but also the community, women, youth and the disabled.

Nedlac’s current activity is to conduct research and further organize summits on various topics such as education, globalisation, the “Buy South Africa campaign”, Black Economic Empowerment, industrial policy and a multi-lateral trading system.

In his concluding remarks Mr Dexter told the committee that his organization is involved with negotiations regarding the R80bn pension funds surplus that has accumulated over a long period of time from people who have failed to claim their pensions. Nedlac’s constituencies will have to decide what to do about the surplus.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked how Nedlac manages on its R6.5bn annual budget. He said he appreciated the fact that the objectives of Nedlac were to promote the goals of economic growth, consider all labour legislation, carry out research, resolve economic disputes, oversee the taxi recapitalisation project and monitor the implementation of the job summit. He wanted to know how Nedlac coped with so much work.

Mr Dexter responded that, like all organizations, Nedlac would like more money. There is Directorate within the Department of Labour that coordinates the work of Nedlac and that helps. He said that the budget is used for organizing meetings. There are three to four meetings taking place every week at Nedlac. However the media does not cover them. They now have a website that covers all the activities of the organization and he invited members to visit the site.

Ms Mahlangu (ANC) wanted to know to what extent the Job Summit resolutions have advanced since they were passed.

Mr Dexter said that to think that jobs come “through sausage machine” was unrealistic. What Nedlac was now doing was to design a format for capturing available data on unemployment and the types of jobs available both for the skilled and the unskilled. He said that government had released figures showing that employment was on the increase but labour was disputing that. Data collection will lead to informed decisions.

Mr Bhengu (IFP) wanted to know what role Nedlac was playing concerning Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). Secondly, to whom was Nedlac accountable?

Mr Dexter said that the promotion of SMMEs falls under the Department of Trade and Industry and that Nedlac is answerable to Parliament.

Mr Kolweni (ANC) wanted to know what criteria were required for communities to qualify for admission at Nedlac.

Mr Dexter said that a community has to be nationally represented with proof of membership and a socio-economic focus. He gave an example of a rural development forum that was active within Nedlac until Nedlac discovered the organisation represented no one. He conceded the fact that most organizations lack resources and therefore could not be represented at Nedlac.

Ms Botha (DP, Free State) wondered whether the nation was getting value for its money out of Nedlac. She said R6.5 million is a lot of money for a small organization like Nedlac. She added that the Nedlac programmes were too ambitious and could not be fulfilled.

Mr Dexter replied that Nedlac was a unique organization that gave value for money. He said that in other countries one constituency dominated the proceedings of an organization like Nedlac but here in South Africa every decision at Nedlac was reached through consensus. He said that if the goals of Nedlac were unachievable, then this country was in trouble. He told the committee that the country had no choice but to address poverty and unemployment. “We’ve got to find a way to overcome these challenges,” he said.

An ANC member wanted to know Nedlac’s role in the “Buy South Africa Campaign”, especially in assisting “backyard” manufacturers to thwart goods that are being dumped from the Far East.

Mr Dexter said that the campaign was already on the ball especially in the tourism sector. He used the example of the Satour advertisements showing tourists buying beads from an emerging entrepreneur. This advert does not stop there. The next one shows that tourist wearing those beads in New York. Mr Dexter said that was what the “Buy South Africa Campaign” was all about.

Appendix:
NEDLAC AND NATIONAL PRIORITIES:
February 2001

1. THE CASE FOR SOCIAL DIALOGUE:
- Good governance
- Increasing global importance attached to social dialogue
- Importance of institutionalising social dialogue
 
2. THE BACKGROUND TO SOCIAL DIALOGUE IN SA:
- Success of negotiated political transition to democracy
- The role of business and labour in laying the foundation for meaningful social dialogue
- The current expanding social dialogue

3. POLITICAL ECONOMY OF OUR SOCIETY:
- Race, class and gender inequities: the colonial, apartheid and capitalist legacy

- Social deficit:
    - capital
    - human resources
    - infrastructure backlog

4. THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC SITUATION SINCE 1994:
- Performance of the economy
- Delivery achievements
- The legitimate aspirations of people
- The perceptions of SA

5. NEDLAC'S ROLE TO DATE-Achievements and Challenges
- Labour relations dispensation
- Presidential Jobs Summit Agreements
- Public and constituency perceptions in 1998/9
- Repositioned institutions

6. NEDLAC'S 2000 SUMMIT DECLARATION:
The NEDLAC constituencies seek over the medium to long term to
make South Africa:
- The leading emerging market and destination of first choice for investors whilst retaining and expanding social equity and fair labour standards;
- A productive economy with high levels of service, a highly skilled workforce and modern systems of work organization and management;
- A society in which there are economic opportunities for all, poverty is eradicated, income inequalities are reduced and basic services are available to all;
- A society in which our people, our most precious resource, are given the opportunity      and support to develop to their fullest potential;
- A society that can promote the values of social equity, fairness and human dignity in the global economy.

NEDLAC has identified the following national priorities:
- Promoting and mobilizing investment and creating decent work for all
- Ensuring economic empowerment for all especially for Black people, workers, people with disabilities, women and youth;
- Eradicating poverty and addressing the legacy of under-development;
- Strategically engaging globalisation to the best advantage of the country.

7. KEY CHALLENGE:
- Constituencies have yet to agree on a series of key issues for a negotiated socio-economic transformation of our society.
- This requires a series of strategic agreements that address the national priorities identified and result in shared growth and social equity.
- Constituencies need to make a visible and credible commitment by identifying what they will contribute to this effort and what trade-offs they are prepared to make.

8. ROLE OF LEADERSHIP:
- Social Dialogue presupposes organized formations that represent key social forces in our society-government, business, labour and community.
- Important is how well organized and representative these are and what capacity they have.
- Acknowledge common interest and common fate.
- Deliver shared growth and social equity

NEDLAC Structure
- National Summit
- Executive Council
- Management Committee

CHAMBERS
- Development
- Trade & Industry
- Labour Market
- Public Finance & Monetary Policy

CONSTITUENCIES
- BUSINESS:
     - BSA and NAFCOC

COMMUNITY:
-
SANCO, WNC, SAYC and DPSA

- GOVERNMENT: Departments of:
     - LABOUR                                  - TRADE & INDUSTRY
     - PUBLIC WORKS            -        - FINANCE
     - others when necessary

- LABOUR:
     - COSATU
     - FEDUSA
     - NACTU

SECRETARIAT
-
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
- 4 CHAMBER COORDINATORS
- 2 RESEARCHERS
- INFORMATION, FINANCE AND MEDIA OFFICERS
- 3 ADMINISTRATORS
- GENERAL ASSISTANT

NEDLAC’s current activities: key issues
General
-
Taking the Summit declaration forward
- Sector summits
- Monitoring agreements, especially Presidential Jobs Summit Agreements
- Section 77 applications
- Taxi recapitalisation
- 4 -a-side meeting
- Black Economic Empowerment Commission Report
- Launch of Nedlac bulletin
- Globalisation conference

 Development Chamber
-
Civil society summit
- Education
- Social security
 
Trade and Industry Chamber
-
“Proudly South African” campaign
- Industrial policy
- Trade policy, particularly SA-Mercosur
- Draft Minerals Development Bill
- Plastic bag regulations

 Labour Market Chamber
-
Labour Law Amendments
- Register of labour laws
 
Public Finance & Monetary Policy Chamber
-
Pension funds surplus
- Agreement on a work programme for 2001

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