Political pressure likely to be applied by Cosatu during the parliamentary hearings.

Carol Paton’s article  Labour, business enter next stage of negotiations on labour reforms first appeared in Business Day yesterday and needs to read by clicking on the link or going directly to Business Day.   Thanks to Business Day for allowing random extracts to be published.

“WITH negotiations on all four of the proposed amendments to the labour law regime having been completed in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), it is possible to begin to take stock of what has happened so far.”

“But the main proposed change — which will have the effect of converting any temporary employee to permanent, once they have been employed in the same position by labour broker for more than six months — weighs heavily in its favour. While labour still rightly complains that this is meaningless without enforcement — the Department of Labour’s enforcement capacity is weak — the fact is that, in terms of law, labour has gained, while business has lost.”

“The bill has already been approved by the Cabinet. But after a subsequent meeting between Cosatu and the African National Congress (ANC), Cosatu said a political agreement was reached to withdraw these points. If the agreement holds, the changes will be made during the parliamentary process and will involve the ANC’s members on the portfolio committee on labour (mostly former unionists) removing those sections of the bill.”

“As a part of its fight against labour brokers, Cosatu has also secured a new clause which will probably find a home in the second bill — the Employment Equity Amendment Bill — which guarantees equal pay for equal work. While in one way this is not as big a deal as it looks — as the Labour Court has already confirmed this — it is important with regard to employees who work for a third party through brokers, which have tended to operate on the basis of undercutting wages of permanent workers.”

“In the end, it was compliance issues that were the sticking point in Employment Equity Amendment Act, which like the Labour Relations Amendment Act was concluded in Nedlac without business’s consensus. The hot issue of racial demographics and how these should be measured — which it had been expected would be the deal breaker — was agreed to by all the parties. In the end, it seems that there was little change to the way that demographics are measured now, with regional companies using regional ones and national companies being allowed, with ministerial permission, to use national ones.”

“With all the bills now through Nedlac, the next round, which will include parliamentary hearings is poised to begin. Both business and labour will do their utmost to win what they did not win in the Nedlac phase. For labour, this will amount to political pressure on the ANC. For business, it will likely amount to a media campaign, complaining about inflexibility of the labour market.”

“But the odds are that when the bills get to Parliament, organised labour will stand to gain even further.”