John Brand, a very skilful and experienced lawyer in the field of employment law and labour relations, sincerely believes the time is ripe for another Wiehahn-type commission of inquiry into all labour legislation.

Yesterday Mining Weekly first published the article South Africa’s Labour Relations Act needs radical reform – John Brand.

Here are a few random extracts but the entire article needs to be read by clicking on the link.

South Africa’s Wiehahn Commission paved the way for the registration of black labour unions in apartheid South Africa in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

Speaking at a seminar on the lessons of Marikana for corporate South Africa, Brand said there was a dire need to reinvigorate enterprise-level collective bargaining and engagement and to improve industrial democracy through the radical reform of organisational rights.

“The Labour Relations Act doesn’t need tinkering, it needs radical reform if we are going to get out of this situation,” Brand said.

The problems of over-centralisation needed to be ironed-out of the collective bargaining system and unions needed access to compete for the position of majority representative in appropriate bargaining units.

“The Constitution guarantees fair labour practice to everyone,” he reminded Mining Weekly Online on the side-lines of the seminar.

Currently, unions could not be compelled to participate in strikes non-violently and to negotiate in good faith.

“If you just allow the parties to fight it out in Nedlac, you are never going to get a solution.   What we need is someone like Mamphela Ramphele to chair a commission of inquiry into labour relations, for expert evidence to be invited and to make recommendations to government.   That’s the only way out of it as far as I am concerned,” Brand told Mining Weekly Online.

Over-centralisation was precluding employers from effectively managing higher productivity through enterprise-level engagement.

Employers were being held to the lowest common denominator by being prohibited from rewarding employee productivity gains at company level.

“I would be inclined to collapse the whole centralised bargaining system, but if not, have an absolute rule that only minimum wages can be fixed at centralised level and allow the market to play itself out at enterprise level.   This is something we have all been fighting for,” Brand said, recalling that in 1994 a Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) policy document called for a national minimum wage, and for designated industrial sectors to negotiate minima and actuals to be fixed at company level.