Victories in the fight for better working conditions

As the globe observes International Workers’ Day, Parliament’s Presiding Officers have joined millions of workers around the world in celebrating the victories gained in the fight for better working conditions.

Since 1994, Workers’ Day in South Africa has been officially recognised as a celebration of workers’ rights, and a reminder of the critical role played by the country’s workforce in the struggle against apartheid.

Parliament has paid tribute to workers for the gallant struggles they waged against oppressive labour laws under colonial and apartheid systems of government.

Led by National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngqakula and National Council of Provinces Chairperson, Amos Masondo, the Presiding Officers of Parliament acknowledged that workers are the backbone of the economy.

Over the years, Parliament has consolidated the rights of workers through a wide range of labour-related laws, which promote, strengthen, and protect workers’ rights.

“Key pieces of legislation such as the National Minimum Wage Bill, the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act have all contributed to building a socially just labour system.

“These laws have ensured acceptable daily wage rates, the extension of bargaining agreements to non-parties, and overall improvements in workers’ conditions in South Africa. Parliament recognises that much more needs to be done to address existing disparities and respond positively to calls for “equal pay for equal work” across all sectors,” Mapisa-Ngqakula and Masondo said.

The Presiding Officers added that continual strengthening of existing labour laws and extensive oversight on their implementation remain Parliament’s priority.

“Through its oversight instruments, Parliament continues to sharpen policy and law-making mechanisms to improve the living and working conditions of the South African working class at large.”

Recently, the National Assembly assigned the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development, as well as the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour, to assess the implementation and impact of relevant pieces of legislation and to consider the work done by various state agencies, government departments, and social partners in the farming sector.

Oversight visits revealed that despite numerous legislative policy formulations and interventions, workers and farm dwellers continue to face challenges, including tenure insecurity, threatened livelihoods, and violations of their human and labour rights.

Parliament, they said, acknowledged the collaborative work within the farming sector that involves various social partners, farm owners, farmworkers, and farm dwellers in seeking solutions to the challenges faced by farming communities.

“Both portfolio committees will work jointly to conduct comprehensive oversight work on the living and working conditions of farmworkers, monitor progress made by the government’s commitments towards improved living and working conditions in the farming communities, and assess the impact of legislation affecting farmworkers.

“Parliament remains committed to building a truly democratic and prosperous society where workers and all individuals enjoy a better quality of life. As part of this commitment, Parliament will continue to strengthen and protect workers’ rights, fight against inequality, poverty, and unemployment, and promote legislative improvements across all sectors.”

Parliament also acknowledged that despite progress in protecting workers’ rights and improving working conditions, South Africa’s unemployment rate remains high, particularly amongst the youths.

“It is crucial that as many South Africans as possible are included in the labour market through efforts to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and invest in education and training. Parliament acknowledges the urgency of addressing unemployment and is committed to strengthening oversight over programmes and strategies for sustainable employment opportunities,” the Presiding Officer said.

Source: South African Government News Agency