Keynote address delivered by the Minister of Labour on the occasion of the CCMA Inaugural Conference on the state of readiness to implement the national minimum wage held on 15-16 March 2018 at Gallagher Estate In Gauteng
Chairperson of the CCMA Governing Body: Mr Makhulu Ledwaba;
Members of the CCMA Governing Body here present;
National Director of the CCMA: Mr Cameroon Morajane;
Government Officials here present;
Director of the ILO � Pretoria Office; Dr Joni Musabayana;
Leadership of our social partners; Business, Labour and Community Constituency;
Executive Director of Nedlac: Mr Madoda Vilakazi;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Thank you for inviting me to this important and timely occasion where we examine our state of readiness to implement a policy that has been eagerly awaited by many. This level of pro-activity is a welcome breath of fresh air, well done CCMA. [I guess I can sit down now].
Whilst it might not mean a lot for those who are well looked after in the world of work, for the majority of the vulnerable workers, the national minimum wage will make a huge difference. We all agree that the proposed minimum wage is by no means a living wage, but for all intends and purposes, it is an important and timely policy intervention. It also augurs well as a tool to promote social justice which has remained a pipe-dream for many.
Programme director, It is instructive to note that all internationally acclaimed Declarations and Conventions never failed to pronounce on the need for governments to look after their citizens in general and their working people in particular. The creation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1919, as part of the Treaty that ended World War I, reflected the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice.
In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Articles 23 and 24 thereof were unambiguous in spelling out that worker rights are human rights too. The declaration went on to unpack in no uncertain terms, the set of rights that must accrue to the working people which were ostensibly very similar to the issues that were flagged in the preamble of the ILO Constitution.
In June 1955, the Congress of the People also gave a detailed account of the key pillars which the labour relations dispensation, in a true democracy, should embrace. It is therefore no accident that the rights of workers occupy a special place in the Constitution of this country. Some have remarked and correctly so, that there must be very few places in the world where constitutional rights feature as much in public and private discourse as is the case in South Africa.
In merely 23 years of freedom and democracy as the ANC lead government, we have made significant strides towards achieving the vision of the Freedom Charter, the vision which inspired the sacrifices that brought freedom and democracy to this country. Our labour laws reflect the ethos of international best practice as they truly articulate the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights; they depict the International Labour Organisation’s founding vision, and most importantly, they mirror the ideals that are enshrined in the Freedom Charter.
We are very pleased that at the very least, this Ministry, in pursuit of the directive from the ANC government has succeeded to put in place credible policy instruments to bring real meaning to the values of the Freedom Charter; the vision that became the soul of our constitutional democracy. We have truly safeguarded and entrenched the hard-won rights of workers, including trade union workplace organisation, collective bargaining, the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, health and safety, affirmative action, skills development, the right to strike, and the right to peaceful protest.
Programme Director, The creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods remain the primary and overriding objective when we are shaping our policies as it could be gleaned in every policy that we have produced. We can say without fear of contradiction that from the Labour Relations policy perspective, the ANC has delivered on the vision and aspirations of our people and heeded the call from the Congress of the people under the theme – there shall be work and security.
Today we have the labour legislative instruments that talk to all the 6 worker rights demands contained in the Freedom Charter and arguably, all the ILO Core Conventions. This is something to be proud of as a young democracy. Some experts have ventured to say, based on what we have achieved in the labour policy space, South Africa punches way above its weight as the policies it pursues, are way up there with the best in the world. That today we are sitting in this room examining our state of readiness to implement the National Minimum Wage, is a living testimony of how serious we are about transformation.
We must acknowledge that the conclusion of the National Minimum Wage policy marks a new dawn in the labour relations’ landscape in South Africa. It is the first for South Africa and no doubt it will very much be a learning curve for all of us. One day the negative noises and the farce about this policy will subside just like it is the case in countries like Canada and Germany.
I am acutely aware that it was not easy to find the delicate balance in the National Minimum Wage Accord, but by sitting down together in a civilised fashion and talking as we did, we could find one another.
I must also attest to the fact that it has passed the economic and social impact assessment test as a well-balanced policy intervention and we must take comfort in that it is not a reckless politically-motivated pet-project.
Ms Rebecca Lowe, a Senior Reporter of the International Bar Association, observed when talking to lawyers who were determined to go back to basics when she said, Once upon a time, men, arguably wiser and more sensible than those of the present era, settled their disputes by sitting down together in a civilised fashion and talking until the problem was solved.
No courts, no judges, no longwinded wrangling over technicalities; just a chat by the fireside, overseen by a fine, shrewd fellow with a flair for the art of negotiation. She went on to quip that this was the method favoured by Confucius, and others before him, through 4000 years of Chinese folklore.
Buddha championed it in India; while Japanese used this method to help businesses resolve their differences. Not to be outdone, the Roman Empire later picked up the tradition, with interlocutors frequently shuttling to and from antagonistic parties, in a diplomatic bid for peace. Over the generations, however, the realm of dispute resolution gradually became more convoluted and complex.
Flexibility and prudence gave way to formality and structure. While a fair regulated court system is doubtlessly something to be celebrated, it has, some believe, served more to quash the world of common sense negotiation than complement it.
Our model of social dialogue has truly served us well ladies and gentlemen. Whilst our achievements on the labour relations front stand above the rest, we must not forget what Amilcar Cabral once said way back in 1965, and I quote; Tell no lies, claim no easy victories Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward and to guarantee the future of their children.
Today the National Minimum Wage is no longer in anyone’s mind, but has become the ANC government’s policy and will, in a matter of months, become the law of the land. All that is left for us is for Parliament to finalise the legislative instruments to give effect to this seminal achievement. We must, in line with Amilcar’s warning, ask some pertinent questions though, such as, Will the National minimum wage make people live better and in peace, will it see their lives go forward and will it guarantee the future of their children?
We should also ask these questions against the backdrop of Albert Einstein’s remarks, and I paraphrase, Nothing erodes respect and confidence for governments and the law of the land, than passing laws which cannot be enforced. We hope that through the deliberations in this Conference, we will deal with any possible obstacle that may stand in the way for the implementation of the National Minimum Wage.
Making it work will require not only government and its institutions, but all our social partners to work with us. Whilst our labour inspectors should ensure optimal compliance, they should pursue, in partnership with our social partners. We cannot invest so much time and energy in crafting policies in partnership with all our social partners at Nedlac, and when the agreement is in place abdicate our responsibilities to promote compliance. We need to impress on our constituencies to walk the talk on agreements that we conclude through social dialogue.
The labour inspectorate on the other hand, has to be equal to the task in its inspectorate and compliance function otherwise the new policy would not be worth the paper it is written on.
I truly hope that our labour inspectorate has taken the necessary steps to ensure that it is all systems go and that we have mobilised the capacity to rise up to the occasion when the National Minimum Wage law kicks in.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we all know how important the national minimum wage dispensation is for this country where we are battling the stubborn challenge of inequality. The recent report by Oxfam on inequality should be one of the reasons why the successful implementation of the National Minimum Wage, is not an option for us, but a must. On 22 January 2018, Oxfam in its inequality report, indicated that Eighty two percent (82%) of the wealth generated last year, went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world, saw no improvement in their lives.
‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ reveals how the global economy enables the wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes, while hundreds of millions of people are struggling to survive on poverty pay. The report also claims that it takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands, to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime.
It outlines some of the key factors that drive up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. These include inter alia, the erosion of workers’ rights; and the relentless corporate drive to minimize costs in order to maximize returns to shareholders. Results of a new global survey commissioned by Oxfam, demonstrates a groundswell of support for action on inequality.
Of the 70,000 people surveyed in 10 countries, nearly two-thirds of all respondents, think the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be urgently addressed. Oxfam goes on to say that in these days, It’s hard to find a political or business leader who doesn’t say they are worried about inequality, and it is even harder to find one who is doing something about it. I believe that with the advent of the National minimum Wage, we are doing something about wage inequality in South Africa. Of course it will require multi-faceted interventions to remedy the inequality challenge in all its forms, the National Minimum Wage is but one.
Programme Director, I have gleaned the topics on your programme and I am convinced that you will emerge from this conference with practical ways of how to make this work.
I am aware that the introduction of the National minimum wage will no doubt lead to an increase in your case load, but I hope that you have taken the necessary steps to ensure that you are not caught ill-prepared in this regard. Better still, I hope that the leadership of the employers who were part of the national minimum wage deal in the first place, will impress on their members to comply with the new policy, thereby spare the CCMA the trouble of having to find more resources to deal with increased case load.
It is as simple as that, if the employers comply with the National Minimum Wage and all other labour laws, for that matter, there may not be a need for more resources to be spent on inspection and enforcement. However we know that the real world does not work like that. We are confident though, that business leadership will prevail over their members in order to ensure maximum compliance with this policy. This will by extension save the CCMA from having to spend too much time and resources adjudicating disputes over avoidable non-compliance.
Please bear in mind that the hopes and aspirations of the vast majority of vulnerable workers rest on our shoulders and we dare not let them down.
I wish you all the best in your deliberations and I will be waiting eagerly, like the masses of people who can’t wait for this, for your action plan.
I thank you.
Source: Government of South Africa