Recent developments in the labor front signify a turbulent period ahead, South African Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Tuesday.
To better deal with such turbulence, the country’s labor laws must be amended as soon as possible, Oliphant told an organized labor conference in Pretoria.
Such amendments to labor legislation would give certainty to the policy environment and to expand protection for vulnerable workers; and ensure faster change in employment equity in workplaces, the minister said.
Labor laws that are under Parliamentary scrutiny include the Labor Relations Act, and the new Employment Services Bill.
Oliphant was speaking as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Unions (AMCU) was planning massive strikes in a move that would largely bring a halt to platinum production in South Africa.
The strikes, set to start on Thursday, will hit Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin — the world’s biggest, second-largest and third-largest producers of the metal respectively.
Several gold companies, including Sibanye Gold’s Driefontein mine, Harmony Gold’s Kusaselethu and Masimong mines, and AngloGold Ashanti’s South African operations, will also be affected.
The strikes will deal a fresh blow to the mining sector already hard hit by on-and-off strikes since 2012.
Oliphant said the issue of violence during strikes, including those factors that give rise to violent action and protracted strike action will receive particular attention. Another matter that would receive focus was the review of the possibility to increase minimum wages so as to address poverty and inequality, and; to expand provision for retirement savings for low income workers, according to the minister.
With the conclusion of amendments,”we will be able to deal with abuses in the labor market and problems of non-compliance with our labor legislation”,the minister highlighted.
She urged organized labor not to wait until a lapse in wage agreements, advising that unions start wage talks as early as possible.
She also questioned the logic of prolonged strike that resulted in low percentage wage settlements, saying that unions have a responsibility to guide and advise workers.
The minister cautioned and called for organized labor to play a proactive role to ensure transformation in South Africa.