SACTWU's ploy to destroy the FMF has backfired
The Free Market Foundation (FMF) is greatly encouraged and strengthened by the depth and breadth of moral outrage and common sense support against South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union's (Sactwu) deliberate and unlawful intention to destroy the legally constituted body of the FMF. On March 27 2014, the FMF exposed Sactwu's illegal action which demands that all employers in the clothing and textile industry should cease any kind of financial or membership support for the FMF in an ill-advised and unconstitutional clause in their proposed main bargaining council agreement 2014/16.
Media outlets and commentators seized on the story and highlighted the fact that, by their actions, unions are now attempting to usurp Parliament by inserting demands into bargaining council agreements that have the effect of an enforceable "law".
In March 2013 the FMF launched a legal challenge to S 32 2 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) 1995. Subject to criteria of sufficient representation, this clause compels the Minister of Labour to extend all bargaining council agreements to employers who were not party to the negotiations and who often cannot afford the imposed terms and conditions of wages and employment. This has a particularly damaging impact on smaller business, the key drivers of employment in South Africa.
If Sactwu get their way and their agreement is adopted, then in effect, the Minister would be extending an agreement containing illegal clauses.
Unhappily for Sactwu, their ploy has backfired. Far from destroying the FMF as they set out to do, public opinion is against the unions, its leaders and this action and respect for the rule of law has prevailed. Let the Constitutional court decide whether a law is valid in a constitutional democracy, not union leaders.
The media spotlight and support by commentators and analysts has been almost unanimous. Reasonable people agree that only the courts can decide on this important case, that unions are acting far outside their mandate which sets a dangerous precedent down the slippery slope to anarchy.
Support has come through from many quarters, including the National Employers Association South Africa (Neasa) who this week "threw its weight behind the FMF legal challenge". CE Gerhard Papenfus said,
"There is complete trade union hysteria over the Free Market Foundation's constitutional challenge. They obviously do not understand the nature of the challenge. Their hysteria however confirms the extent to which trade unions have become dependent on bargaining councils and unconstitutional arrangements which have resulted in economic decline, deprived millions of workers of an opportunity to work and contributed largely to the current unemployment dilemma in South Africa.'
Business Day devoted a considered and balanced editorial to looking at the mess that the labour regulatory framework is in and the damage this is doing to our economy. In closing, the editor said that the FMF's legal challenge to change the law regarding automatic extensions presents a compromise that would not "throw the baby out with the bath water" in the arena of bargaining agreements.
The FMF has understanding and empathy with the history and roots of the trade unions and the battles fought against exploitation under Apartheid. Our action and objective is purely to speak out for the more than seven million unemployed citizens who have no job, no voice and no future.
"This is not exploitation, this is not about continuing slave wages," said FMF Chairman Mr Herman Mashaba. "Ask any man or woman standing on our street corners desperate for work. Any job with some income is better than no job. Some food is better than none. And any job is better than having to commit crime to feed your family."
"Why are we being demonised for trying to help struggling small firms and the millions in poverty and destitution?" Mr Mashaba continued, "All we are asking is that the minister be allowed to apply her mind and that she be given some room for manoeuver to consider the wider social and economic circumstances before being forced to extend an agreement to smaller firms who cannot afford to pay the higher wages agreed to by the bigger parties at the bargaining table."
He ended by saying, "The FMF is aware of calls for a national Labour Indaba and we would welcome the opportunity to put forward our ideas for the greater good of South Africa. We look forward to the call."
The Free Market Foundation
The FMF is an independent public benefit organisation founded in 1975 to promote and foster an open society, the rule of law, personal liberty and economic and press freedom as fundamental components of its advocacy of human rights and democracy based on classical liberal principles.
Statement issued by Jayne Boccaleone, Media Relations & Communications, Free Market Foundation, April 10 2014
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