Oliphant: Turbulent times for labour

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MildredOliphant Independent Newspapers. Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant. Photo: Leon Nicholas.

Pretoria - Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on Tuesday warned of turbulence in the labour market.

“Recent developments in the labour front signify a turbulent period ahead, but I still believe that it is incumbent upon me to extend best wishes to you all for 2014,” she said at a Nedlac conference in Pretoria.

On Monday, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) announced it would strike in both the platinum and gold sectors after issuing employers with strike notices.

Amcu was one of the unions involved in the strike at Lonmin's Marikana mine, which led to the deaths of 44 people in August 2012.

Job growth was “the most important challenge” for 2014, Oliphant said at the National Economic Development and Labour Council's conference.

“We also hope that this year will buck the trend of 2013 that saw a higher number of new contract jobs or short-duration jobs than permanent jobs.”

This was in line with the National Development Plan's aim to create 2.8 million new jobs by 2015.

She noted criticism of labour legislation and labour dispensation, particularly from some international bodies, as well as local business and the media.

“There are also some who are clearly of the view that our labour legislation is too restrictive and that the South African labour market is over-regulated. We certainly don’t think so.”

The Democratic Alliance recently announced its policies ahead of the national elections, calling for a relaxation of labour regulation, which it said would help create jobs. Oliphant said government aimed for an approach of “regulated flexibility”.

“Regulated flexibility accepts the necessity of regulation, and the need for flexibility. The key issue is finding the right balance. So, let us make progress by focusing on the details and on striking the right balance in our labour legislation.”

One of the difficulties raised in the NDP was the need to link growth in wages with productivity growth.

“This is an area that the department has not addressed directly but it is one that will require attention.”

The department was prioritising the promulgation and implementation of the bills, currently before Parliament. The proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act, Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Employment Equity Act, and the Employment Services Act would enable the department to deal with abuses in the labour market and non-compliance with labour legislation.

On Friday, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration said it had issued Amcu with non-resolution certificates for the platinum sector, after negotiations with Lonmin Platinum, Anglo American Platinum, and Impala Platinum deadlocked.

However, the Chamber of Mines said gold producers would go to court as they believed the strike in their sector was illegal, and would seek damages from the union.

The strikes were scheduled to take place at Sibanye Gold's Driefontein mine, Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu and Masimong mines, and at all of AngloGold Ashanti's South African operations.

This was after the union referred separate disputes with the three companies to the commission in October and November last year. Amcu was the dominant union in the platinum sector.

Amcu wanted an entry-level monthly salary of R12,500. - Sapa


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