Business Unity South Africa (Busa) has voiced its support for amendments to legislation to introduce provisions to enhance labour relations stability and the implementation of a National Minimum Wage (NMW).
Busa warned, however, that the risks to employment and business, particularly smaller and emerging businesses, had to be carefully managed.
In its submission to the Portfolio Committee on Labour on Wednesday, Busa stood behind the provisions contained in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill that reflected a “delicate package” of compromises arising out of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) negotiations.
Key provisions in this regard include compulsory default picketing rules for all industrial action; making the requirement for a secret ballot explicit; and the introduction of advisory arbitration aimed at resolving prolonged or violent strikes.
Busa stated that the advisory arbitration provisions provided the opportunity for the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to engage with parties with the aim of securing agreed resolutions to industrial action that undermined Constitutional rights or created an acute local or national crisis.
“The labour relations stability amendments include provisions that have the potential to change fundamentally the tone of labour relations and build a mutually respectful, job rich, productive and competitive economy, thereby enhancing the Constitutional right to fair labour practices and putting us on the path of social and economic prosperity,” added Busa CEO Tanya Cohen.
Cohen was the lead technical negotiator for business in the Nedlac negotiations on labour relations stability and wage inequality.
In addition, in relation to the NMW amendments, Busa stated that, while the wage level was considerably higher than an economically efficient level, it recognised the need for South Africa to address wage inequality and for the most vulnerable workers to be protected.
Busa highlighted that the rate of R20 an hour had to be implemented with the agreed phase-in periods for domestic workers and agricultural workers; as well as a fully functional exemption system without limitations for those employers that could not afford the NMW.
Busa expressed particular concern that the exemption system should operate efficiently and be accessible for businesses regardless of size.
In addition, Busa emphasised the importance of ensuring that adjustments to the NMW were affordable and did not inadvertently act as a deterrent to employment, growth and transformation of the economy.
In addition, it stated that the NMW Commission would need to mitigate the risks of job losses, business closures or technological substitution through ongoing evaluation of the impact of the NMW in a changing world of work.
“We want to encourage all businesses, regardless of size, to comply with the NMW, and to do that requires confidence in the setting and administration of the NMW. An efficient and accessible exemption system, with quick turnaround times, supported by strong institutional capacity in the Department of Labour and the CCMA is crucial,” Cohen stated.
Notwithstanding its concerns, Busa said it remains committed to the Nedlac agreements and noted that it is important to maintain the “delicate and interrelated package” of compromises that have been reached by the Nedlac constituencies.