Labour law stops the jobless from selling their skills

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In the article “Youth jobless rate leaps to 36.1%” (Business Report, June 6), Loane Sharp, a labour economist at Adcorp, was reported as saying that “the primary responsibility for high youth unemployment lay with unions and bargaining councils”.

Although, for practical purposes, this is true enough, he stopped short of identifying the actual mechanism – section 32 of the Labour Relations Act of 1995 – that brings this about. Section 32, via the bargaining council system, enables the setting of minimum wages in many parts of the formal sector. While the intention of this legislation may have been benevolent, the effect on most of the unemployed is vicious. When an unemployed person cannot find work at the minimum wage in the formal sector, section 32, in effect, makes it illegal for that person to offer his or her labour at a lower price – where a potential employer may be justified in giving them a job.

Thus, for practical purposes, section 32 imposes a legal disability on the unemployed with respect to selling their labour. In doing so, it also breaches several provisions of the bill of rights in our constitution – the rights to: freedom of association; to follow the trade and occupation of one’s choice; and to human dignity.

Where the law deprives the jobless of fundamental human rights relating to their economic lives, we should not be surprised at high unemployment.

Sadly, public debate on this crucial matter is often stifled by vested interests in organised labour through the use of emotive terms like “slavery” and “starvation wages” – seemingly oblivious to the fact that it is much easier to starve on no wage than on a low wage; and that an essential part of slavery is disallowing people from selling their own labour as they see fit.

Another phrase used to deflect genuine analysis is “preventing a race to the bottom”. But 5 million to 7 million jobless South Africans (helped by section 32) have finished this “race” and are at the bottom. And in the case of so many of the youth, they do not even have to join the “race to the bottom” – section 32 will pick them up from school and dump them on the finishing line.

Is it right that our law should assist in keeping the unemployed at the bottom?

Michael Reitz

Constantia

Tighten up search engine, Takealot.com

I was interested to read (Business Report, June 2) that Takealot.com has received a large injection of funds to be spent on growing its business into the number one position in South Africa. I hope it sees fit to invest some of it in tightening up its search engine. Try this:

n Log in to Takealot

n Select to search for a book

n Enter the title (it’s a real one) “Dept of speculation”

n See what you get.

I got 36 847 “hits”. (The previous time I tried it, about three weeks ago, I got a “mere” 29 000-odd.) That the first two were what I was looking for is irrelevant – the result is ludicrous. By way of comparison, the company named as the one it is aiming to overtake – Kalahari.com – delivers 135 hits in response to the identical query. But the best of all is Loot.co.za, which gave me exactly seven matches, of which all but two were exactly what I was looking for.

I have repeatedly drawn this situation to the company’s attention, and while I do not expect them to react to every cockamamie comment from customers, this particular situation merits urgent attention. I have informed Takealot that it is my last resort, simply because of the difficulty in separating the wheat from the overwhelming quantity of chaff that results from a simple query. I cannot believe that I am the only one irritated by this.

Chris Graham

Randburg

SA a prime example of an ineptocracy

The London Times’s quote of the week: “South Africa is the only country in the world where affirmative action is in the favour of the majority who has complete political control. The fact that the political majority requires affirmative action to protect them against a 9 percent minority group is testament to a complete failure on their part to build their own wealth-making structures, such that their only solution is to take it from others.”

We, in South Africa, under our present government, are seen as a prime example of ineptocracy, which is a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

In 1994, we became the Rainbow Nation under the leadership of president Nelson Mandela. His influence spread throughout the country. When he stepped down from office, so did his values and principles.

Our nation is crumbling, corrupt, and crime-ridden. There is money to upgrade our state hospitals and improve their services and resources; just as there is money to build and renovate schools and give them the resources, teachers and sports fields they need. But the money is being taken by our “leaders”. Our people and the justice system stand by and allow this to continue. Why?

While enriching themselves, our government and provincial leaders show little respect for the masses; no acknowledgement for the present infrastructures; and little or no planning for our environment.

A simple law banning the littering of our streets and public areas would introduce discipline as well as clean up our country. In Durban, we have eThekwini security officers, dressed in luminous green outfits, patrolling the streets. They could enforce this law as well as pick up litter.

Most of our students and young adults today, who never suffered under the apartheid government, seem to be bitter and have a sense of entitlement. Where does this come from? The spirit and culture of ubuntu has disintegrated.

Bobby Hackland

Durban

Amcu, president must face treason charges

The platinum mines strike is an unjustifiable action by irresponsible people. A union that calls itself “apolitical and non-communist” seems to have lost the plot.

I cannot understand that the mining houses and the government have made no meaningful attempt to intervene in this action. No one seems to see or want to see the bigger picture.

Our trade deficit is widening but it seems that the mining houses, investors, the government and the public are enjoying being held to ransom.

The very essence of South Africa, our people and the country’s economy, not to mention security, does not seem to be an issue, and nothing is being taken seriously.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) leaders, as well as our president, should be charged with conspiracy to bring about the total collapse of the economy. This is no longer a so-called strike for better wages. This has serious political overtones.

These so-called union leaders are in breach of the country’s security and Amcu is now committing an act of treason and should be dealt with accordingly.

I would like to know why none of the investors, the mining houses and other interested parties have not used some of the country’s legal gurus to think and investigate along these lines.

We must not confuse our bill of rights with acts of individuals who are on the brink of bringing South Africa’s economy to its knees.

Bruce Riddock

Pretoria

SA neither needs, nor can it afford, nuclear

Here are some anti-nuke campaigners’ facts.

Keith Bryer tries to mislead readers with selected facts and half-truths (“The truth of the matter”, Business Report, June 6). He ignores that more than 200 000 people around Chernobyl cannot return to homes that they had to evacuate 25 years ago; that 100 000 people cannot return to their homes around Fukushima; that the European taxpayer and the Japanese taxpayer are paying immense sums to deal with the ruins of nuclear disasters and that the Fukushima disaster is far from over.

A marvellous example of using a half-truth to mislead the uninformed is “… the really high-level waste, like spent fuel rods, is not stored at Vaalputs, it is still on site at Koeberg pending a government decision on its final resting place.” The missing part: a study of the independent American Academy of Sciences warns that keeping not five years’ spent fuel, as designed, but 25 or 30 years’ worth, in the on-site fuel pools constitutes the risk of a disaster larger than Chernobyl. Terrorists would not attempt to carry fuel rods out of the power station, they would try to get the spent fuel pool dry and self-igniting by any sabotage, including a smart cyber-attack.

The thorium reactor is the nuclear lobby’s attempt to revive the nuclear renaissance that never happened. There are three related experiences on record of attempts to operate thorium reactors. The pebble bed thorium reactor in Germany was closed down because it was most difficult to control, considered an unforgiving technology. The US pilot units at the government’s Argonne National Laboratory were shut down, the project declared economically unviable and involving the danger of proliferation. Then there is only one independent source informing about the often mentioned thorium reactors in China, India and Russia – Professor MV Ramana of Princeton who reports on failed related work in India.

As Professor Anton Eberhard of UCT has stated: this country doesn’t need nuclear and it cannot afford nuclear energy. Let me add: we should also reject nuclear because of the related low-probability, but extremely high-severity, risks.

Joachim Zimmer

Cape Town


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