NCOP members should vote in support of progressive bills – COSATU

Federation says their passage will be an historic victory for millions of workers

COSATU calls on the Members of the NCOP to vote in support of the National Minimum Wage, Basic Conditions of Employment, Labour Relations and Labour Laws Amendment Bills

20 August 2018

The National Council of Provinces is scheduled to debate and vote on the National Minimum Wage, Basic Conditions of Employment, Labour Relations and Labour Laws Amendment Bills at 2pm tomorrow, 21 August 2018.  COSATU urges the Members of the NCOP to vote in support of these progressive bills.  Their passage will be an historic victory for millions of workers.

COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU have more than three million members combined and represent the overwhelming majority of organised workers across all sectors of the economy.  We represent organised labour at Nedlac and collectively we have participated extensively for the past three years in negotiations with government, organised business and community on these critical bills at Nedlac.  These engagements have been exhaustive and yielded huge victories for workers and their families and the economy at large.  Whilst we have not achieved all that we wanted, we have scored major victories.

National Minimum Wage Bills

Once these bills are passed, the majority of South African workers will be covered by a national minimum wage and while we all agree that R20 per hour is not a living wage it is still a minimum wage that will benefit  47% of workers , who currently earn less than R20 per hour.  This alone means that half the workers will directly benefit from the NMW and 6.4 million workers and their families will see their wages rise. 

Whilst farm, domestic and public works programmes will be pegged at 90%, 75% and 55% of the NMW for the medium term, they will be fast tracked to join the NMW.  Again a victory for the most vulnerable workers, especially farm, domestic, retail, hospitality, hotel, restaurant, petrol, cleaning, hairdressing, furniture and security workers who often earn far below R20 per hour currently.

Organised labour has supported the NMW as means to put money in the pockets of the poorest of the working class and to ensure that no worker is left with slave wages.  It will help them feed their families and increase their purchasing power and drive local economic demand and thus stimulate the economy.

Labour Relations Amendment Bill

Organised labour has welcomed the protection of the right to strike in the LRA Amendment Bill.  We have successfully defeated attempts by business to undermine workers’ right to strike and we welcome the provisions protecting workers’ rights to picket.

We welcome the LRA Amendment Bill’s provision granting the Minister of Labour the right to extend collective agreements across sectors, where parties are sufficiently representative and thus assisting the most vulnerable and unorganised.

Labour Laws Amendment Bill

The LLA Bill will provide workers with 10 days paid parental leave for fathers and other parents who have not give birth when their child is born.  It will give parents 10 weeks paid adoption leave when legally adopting a child 2 years and younger.  These are campaigns unions have long fought for.

The LLA Bill will also correct the typing mistake in the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act.  This will then expand access for millions of workers to the UIF by increasing UIF payments from 8 to 12 months, covering mothers who had still born births and third trimester miscarriages, allowing a deceased’s beneficiaries to more easily access their remaining UIF payments, separating maternity from UIF benefits and covering workers who’s hours have been reduced by their employer and were later retrenched. 

This will present a massive helping hand for millions of struggling workers.  It will also cover public servants in the event of their dismissal.  It will also mean a massive injection of funds into the UIF once public servants join it.  This will enable the UIF to expand its job creation and protection programmes as well as UIF benefits.

Adopt and implement the NMW and Labour Bills now!

These four bills represent huge achievements for workers and show the power of unions when united.

We have made proposed amendments to strengthen the legislation and close the gaps.  These must be addressed in a future amendment bill in 2019.  There must be no further delays to the adoption and implementation of the NMW.  Workers have waited too long.  Any further delays will only serve to demoralise workers and erode the value of the NMW.  It must be adopted by Parliament now. 

We note the many false prophets of doom who have falsely claimed that these are setbacks for workers.  How can a national minimum wage be a defeat? How can raising the wages of 47% of workers be a betrayal? How can protecting the right to strike be a failure?  How can extending collective bargaining agreements be a setback?  Many of these same self appointed critics have themselves accepted offers less than R20 per hour.

Parliament held extensive public hearings across all provinces on a minimum wage in 2015.  The Department of Labour held workshops in all provinces with employers and workers. The Department extended the deadline for submissions and allowed for three months for submissions, triple the normal timeframe.  The Portfolio Committee allowed three weeks for submissions.  Again longer than the normal timeframes.  The NCOP gave additional space for public hearings.

The struggle for a NMW has been there for decades.  The Freedom Charter called for it in 1955.  Workers are tired of consulting and want a NMW now!  The three Labour Federations support the introduction of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) as a major advance for workers in South Africa. While R20 per hour is not a living wage and falls short of Labour’s demand, it can be an important contributor to eradicating poverty and dealing with inequality.

Issued by Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator, COSATU, 20 August 2018