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Casual workers owe gratitude to farmers for jobs

Regarding Rod Gurzynski’s comparison of minimum wages for farmworkers in South Africa and Australia, (Business Report, February 18), it is meaningless to compare wages in rand with that of different countries in the world.

What is important is how skilled the labourers are and what they can buy with the money they earn in each country, that is, the cost of living. I have spent time in Australia and found it expensive for a South African, especially regarding the fact that the exchange rate is getting worse.

Even worse, in their effort to get rid of the white farmers, the ANC promptly terminated subsidies to farmers, unlike other countries, resulting in the fact that we are beginning to import foods that we always took for granted as locally produced. And this is only the beginning.

The next question is, why do those casual workers, in the informal settlements in De Doorns and other communities, have to work on farms? The obvious reason is that they are completely unskilled, nobody else wants to employ them.

Why don’t Tony Ehrenreich and his cronies not target other possibilities? They should be grateful to the farmers who at least try to do something for those people.

And, finally, why does the ANC, with Jacob Zuma at its head, only make promises regarding employment, to no avail?

Erik Barnard

Betty’s Bay

Pressly fails to reflect minister’s nuances

Your report “Manuel opposes power hikes” (Business Report, February 20) refers.

It was written by Donwald Pressly with an opening paragraph that reads: “Planning Minister Trevor Manuel became the first minister to publicly stick his neck out on power price hikes when he declared yesterday that the proposed massive increases were unacceptable”.

I thought the approach that we took was conscious and very nuanced because of the difficulties of price hikes.

I have gone back to listen to the recordings of the press briefing that the Government Communication and Information System made and I am convinced that I framed the issues as a complex and requiring a nuanced approach.

Because of my responsibility as both minister and a commissioner in the National Planning Commission, I am very mindful of the need to defer to my cabinet colleagues who have the line function responsibility, and in the case of Eskom it would be both the ministers of public enterprises and energy.

Nothing that I said could invoke the conclusions that your correspondent, Donwald Pressly, arrived at. It would assist if he was actually engaged in the press conference he occasionally attends and not as distracted as he was.

Consequently, he would not be able to find evidence to support what he has written. A call for moderation cannot be equated to a virulent opposition.

Trevor Manuel, MP

VIA E-MAIL

State’s failures result from incompetence

It was with great interest that I read two articles in your newspaper (Business Report, February 20) about Trevor Manuel’s declaration that “the proposed massive increases were unacceptable” regarding Eskom, and that of Loane Sharp and Peter Ayling stating that: “South Africa has some of the best-run companies in the world.” I agree with every word said.

The very sad thing is that nobody listens, especially not President Jacob Zuma. Manuel also states: “There would be a need of a crackdown on public servants who did not do their jobs”, and so on.

The problem is those people cannot do their jobs: they are incompetent and do not know how. They are the victims of those who appointed them. Most of the people in government jobs are appointed way above their level of competence; they are cronies or comrades awarded for personal favours.

Also, the ANC does not know what the word merit means. I would like to refer to a statement in 1997 by Mario Rantho, ANC parliamentarian, quoted internationally: “It is imperative to get rid of merit as the overriding principle in the appointment of public servants.”

The other sad thing is that in spite of having some of the best-run companies in the world, whatever business is run by the government results in a miserable failure, like Eskom, SAA, public hospitals, and you name it.

Those are being managed by people who cannot do their jobs and are continually replaced by others who also do not now how. In the meantime we have some of the best managers next door. Where are we heading and who is going to stop it?

Good advice to spend stolen money smartly

In Business Report, February 19, Etienne le Roux writes that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s only option is to spend South African taxpayer’s money “in a smarter fashion”. He says consumer spending is the driver of economic recovery.

Stupidly, I always thought that for consumers to be able to spend, they first needed jobs provided by a well-functioning industry as the driving force.

Le Roux also regrets the fact that the minister cannot reinvigorate the economy by fuelling spending. He is of the opinion that the broker you are, the more you should spend, like the European ministers.

Already Gordhan has given it a good go. Since he took over from Trevor Manuel he has at least trebled South Africa’s external debt because, unlike Manuel, he is unable to reign in the communist and socialist spendthrifts in his government. See the website, indexmundi.com. But Le Roux does not mention that.

Le Roux has some most excellent advice for the minister. He is to check out all the stolen, robbed, defrauded, mislaid and forgotten money by our president and his ministers and then spend all that smartly!

That will fix our country’s economy. If you cannot spend because you are broke, says Le Roux, try and catch the stolen money. Who would have thought that?

And you know what? Le Roux is the chief economist at Rand Merchant Bank.

Nicholas Dekker

Stanford

Public service sick leave can be beaten

South Africa’s income is under pressure and yet our costs continue to rise.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will have the unenviable job in trying to balance the Budget again this year.

In spite of this, corruption, overspending and waste are rife. The pleas of sane men and women are ignored.

There is one option that could have a dramatic impact on revenue and efficiency: better management of absenteeism.

South Africa has a bloated public sector. According to Media24 “nearly R12 of every R100 generated by the South African economy is spent on civil servants: nearly three times as much as Brazil”.

The percentage of sick leave days taken by public servants during 2011 was truly staggering: reported to be 33.6 percent in 2011. In the financial sector, for example, the average was 8.9 percent, and even this is high. If anything, it has probably gotten worse since 2011.

With a huge and costly public sector, for each 1 percentage point reduction in absenteeism a direct saving of more than R3 billion a year can be realised. Indirect savings can double this.

New technology can facilitate a significant reduction.

Nitric Software Laboratory in Cape Town has developed a system, iMC, based on technology similar to Facebook. This provides a simpler, more scalable and far less costly solution than traditional systems. Like Facebook and e-mail, the benefits of the technology are dramatic.

The steps are simple: formulate a sick leave policy, which complies with government and labour law policy and procedure, and which accordingly makes it clear that all staff are expected to be available and capable of work at all times unless legitimately sick or on leave.

Ensure that all employees, supervisors and managers read and understand the policy. Ensure that every supervisor and manager consistently applies the policy with the aid of software like iMC. The software will also provide human resources and senior management with oversight and exceptional management of all incidents, as well as data for statistical analysis and planning.

This solution is simple, inexpensive and practically possible, and apart from realising massive savings, it would transform the public service and service delivery for the better.

Andrew Spagnoletti

Minimum wages keep many unemployable

Terry Bell, in defence of section 32 of the Labour Relations Act (Inside Labour, Business Report, February 22), correctly points out that “exemptions and waivers” may be applied for.

It is section 32 that provides for the statutory extension of bargaining council wage agreements to non-parties, the mechanism whereby statutory minimum wage levels are set in most of the formal sector of the South African economy.

Its consequence for those jobless work seekers who cannot find a job at the statutory minimum wage is to make it illegal for them to sell their labour in the formal sector at a lower price, at which they might find employment. Essentially, the law demands that if the unemployed cannot get a job at the statutory wage, they must make do on no wage. There are between 5 million and 7 million jobless South Africans who suffer in this manner.

Section 32 breaches several provisions of the Bill of Rights of our constitution: the rights to fair labour practice; to follow the trade or occupation of your choice; to human dignity; and most importantly, for practical purposes, the right to freedom of association, without which no co-operative human activity can occur. In this way it forms a massive impediment to formal sector job creation.

Bell is no doubt aware that one of the primary objects of the Labour Relations Act, contained in section 1(d)(ii), is “to promote… collective bargaining at sectoral level”. Consequently, any application for an exemption based on the principle that work seekers wish to exercise their constitutional right to sell their labour at the best price that they can get, regardless of any bargaining council determination, undermines the objective contained in section 1(d)(ii), and is unlikely to succeed.

Why should unemployed workers have to ask the labour minister for permission to exercise their constitutional rights?

It is an interesting phenomenon that many South Africans who express concern about poverty, unemployment, inequality and the income gap, nonetheless support section 32, which promotes all these undesirable conditions. If the society believes the market-related wages of the lowest skilled fall short of a “living wage”, then we, through our taxes, must pay in addition a “social wage” in the form of a basic income grant to the lowest-paid workers.

Michael Reitz

Constantia

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