Johannesburg – Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will oppose efforts to exempt small businesses from labour laws, the trade union federation said on Monday.

“The laws already contain flexibility to take account of the particular problems of small businesses, which are entitled to various exemptions,” Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said.

“The only legally enforced wages are those for vulnerable workers covered by sectoral determinations. These are minimum wages, and are certainly not high.”

He was responding to Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s suggestion that labour laws should not apply to small businesses.

Zulu told the City Press that small businesses should not be subjected to the same labour regulation as big business.

“When owners make little profits, they can’t be forced to pay high wages or be forced to keep staff at the cost of their business,” she told the newspaper.

Craven said existing legislation – the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Employment Equity Act – had been negotiated jointly by government, labour and business.

They complied with international best practice as well as International Labour Organisation conventions.