Workers Day Message from Parliament’s Presiding Officers

Parliament� Millions of workers across the world will today pay tribute to the gallant struggles of the glorious and toiling masses of workers against an oppressive labour system – and celebrate milestones of victories in the continuous journey for the improvement of their working conditions.

In South Africa, the battle for better and improved rights in the workplace, which were intertwined with the struggle for social justice, freedom and democracy, has come a long way. Great strides have been made since 1994 to transform the labour legislative landscape to eliminate restrictive and oppressive labour laws to ensure progressive laws that guarantees inalienable rights such as freedom of association, collective bargaining, right to strike and workplace freedom.

While we recognise these strides in the last 24 years, the Presiding Officers of Parliament acknowledge that more still needs to be done to ensure that South Africa’s working class truly enjoy the fruits of our maturing democracy whose anniversary our nation celebrated few days ago. South African are obliged by our political history to work together, united in their diversity, to build a better country; to build an economy that takes care of its people by absorbing more people into the labour market, guaranteeing their job security, decent wages and labour rights. The objectives and goals of the Freedom Charter and the National Development Plan, of a truly non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous nation, requires united efforts towards their fulfilment.

Parliament continues to improve the legislative landscape to consolidate workers’ victories and rights.

As we commemorate May Day during the year in which we mark the 100 birthday of the founding president of our democratic South Africa Nelson Mandela, Parliament is amending two existing legislations while also introducing two more to ensure that the laws governing the employer and employee relations in South Africa further bolster the successes that we have achieved since the advent of democracy in 1994.

The new National Minimum Wage Bill, introduced by the Minister of Labour in November last year � aims to provide for the national minimum wage and the establishment of the National Minimum Wage Commission with clear functions and composition. Once passed into a law, it will advance economic development and social justice by improving the wages of lowest paid workers, protecting them from unreasonably low wages and promoting collecting bargaining and supporting economic policy. It will ensure that the pervasive and entrenched exploitation of workers in various sectors of the economy is put to a stop.

The other new Bill, the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, is a Private Member’s Bill that was drafted in line with the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) policy on family values. It deals with parental leave and also provides for adoption and surrogacy leave, and it is drafted to ensure harmony with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and to ensure the provisions contained in the Bill pass Constitutional muster.

The two Acts that are being amended are the BCEA and the Labour Relations Act (LRA). The amendments to the BCEA seeks to repeal the provisions dealing with sectoral determinations and the Employment Conditions Commission and provide for daily wage payments applicable to certain employees, amongst others. Proposed amendments to the LRA includes, amongst others, amending section 32 of the Act to provide for the process and criteria for the extension of bargaining agreements to non-parties by the Minister of Labour.

In processing these laws, Parliament is clearly putting to expression its commitment to Learning from Madiba � its theme for this year – by passing laws that aim to unlock bottlenecks and tackle the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment consistent with the aspiration of those who fought for our democracy.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa