Labour on endorsement of labour bills by National Assembly

Endorsement by the National Assembly of the labour bills

A significant step was taken on 29 May 2018 when the National Assembly passed the National Minimum Wage Bill, the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill.

These Bills capture the agreements reached by the social partners on measures to strengthen labour stability and collective bargaining and on the modalities for the introduction of the first national minimum wage. During the Committee stage in the National Assembly, changes were introduced which will strengthen the legislation and clarify certain aspects.

The next step in the process will be for the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to consider the Bills. If the NCOP passes the Bills, they will be submitted to the President for assent at which point the date of implementation of the national minimum wage is likely to be made known. If the NCOP amends or rejects the Bills, they will be referred back to the Assembly portfolio committee.

The National Minimum Wage Bill

This Bill seeks to improve the lives of the lowest paid workers in the labour market and carries the promise of addressing the inequality and poverty challenge in South Africa. The Bill establishes the National Minimum Wage Commission and sets the first National Minimum Wage at R20 per hour.

The National Minimum Wage Commission will take over many of the functions of the current Employment Conditions Commission. The Commission will recommend annual adjustments to the level of the national minimum wage and review it on a regular basis in order to take into account the impact of the level on employment, collective bargaining, poverty and inequality.

It is significant that South Africa will join several countries around the world that have implemented a national minimum wage as an instrument of economic and social development. It must be said however, that setting the level was an extremely delicate balancing act, in that social partners had to ensure that the national minimum wage is set at a level that will yield a meaningful impact on the wages of the lowest paid workers, while guarding against any negative impact on employment.

In order to demonstrate flexibility, provisions for businesses that may be unable to afford the national minimum wage, to apply for exemption are included.

Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill

The proposed amendments in the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill are primarily consequential to the introduction of the National Minimum Wage Bill. These are designed to reinforce and create an enabling legal environment for the enforcement and monitoring of the National Minimum Wage. The Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill also re-defines the role and scope of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration, (CCMA) on matters that may arise with respect to the implementation of National Minimum Wage, such as underpayment claims.

It is noteworthy that the Bill streamlines the process that deals with non-compliance and makes access to social justice more accessible than it is currently the case. The Labour Inspector does not have to approach the Labour Court in order to enforce an Order, as the Bill makes provisions for the CCMA to play that role.

This takes away the cost associated with access to the Labour Court and the cost associated with serving writs of execution, as the CCMA will henceforth assume that responsibility on behalf of a worker who is underpaid. The Bill also prohibits any downwards variation of working conditions with the intention of circumventing compliance with the National Minimum Wage Legislation.

The Labour Relations Amendment Bill

The Bill seeks to create provisions to give effect to the agreement by social partners on measures to enhance labour stability, in particular to strengthen collective bargaining and to prevent violent and prolonged strikes. An important feature of the Bill is that it introduces an advisory arbitration measure to resolve strikes that are intractable, violent or may cause a local or national crisis.

The Bill also gives effect to the Code of Good practice on Collective Bargaining, Industrial Action and Picketing that was agreed at NEDLAC and that will be published once the Bill has been promulgated. The Code is intended to provide practical guidance on collective bargaining, the resolution of disputes of mutual interest and the resort to industrial action.

Source: Government of South Africa