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‘Labour laws contribute to strikes’

Johannesburg - Labour laws contributed to the prolonged, violent strikes the country has seen in various industries, the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) said on Wednesday.

“While we agree that the current labour legislation is not a direct or the only driver of the violent strikes, one should not shy away from admitting that South Africa’s labour laws play a huge role in exacerbating unemployment, poverty, and inequality,” Neasa chief executive Gerhard Papenfus said in a statement.

The National Union of Metalworkers striking workers march in central Johannesburg. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi. Credit: Reuters

“Employers all over the world respond negatively when governments over-prescribe to them how to run their affairs.”

Neasa disagreed with comments made by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant at the Mining Lekgotla dialogue in Midrand last week.

At the time, Oliphant said the biggest problem was not legislation but the lack of “real transformation”, socio-economic equity, mutual respect, and trust in the workplace.

“In my observation, these have contributed to the anger and frustration that we see in the current industrial relations dynamics,” she said.

“So we need to be very careful about tinkering with the law when the law is not the culprit.”

Oliphant said “quick fixes and emotional solutions” would not be sustainable.

Papenfus said Neasa agreed with Oliphant but there had been ample opportunity to consider fundamental changes which would stimulate business.

On Sunday, the presidency announced that President Jacob Zuma had signed into law the Labour Relations Amendment Act.

Papenfus said the latest changes gave business very little to be excited about.

The changes were more “cosmetic and technical”, and to appease the Congress of SA Trade Unions.

“The problem is that the ANC's tripartite alliance partners, and to a lesser extent big business in Nedlac, are the only ones to have the minister's ear,” he said.

Neasa maintained that the current labour laws were detrimental to sustainable growth and development.

The Labour Relations Act was not an enabler of business, and would ultimately fail in creating employment, Papenfus said.

“Unless something drastic is done about it, our socio-economic challenges will increase.

“At some point we’ll have to face this reality and make radical decisions,” he said. - Sapa

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