25 January 2011
Creating jobs in South Africa, while at the same time striving for decent work, will be the key focus of the Labour Department’s policies in the years ahead, says Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.
“We have to ensure that our policies do not have negative consequences for employment,” Oliphant said at the annual labour policy conference in Pretoria on Monday. “Some may want to argue that our priority should be decent work. I would, however, caution against getting into an either-or debate.
“What we ultimately want are jobs that are decent,” the minister said. “We know that the International Labour Organisation defines work as being productive jobs for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.”
She said it was critical that the social partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) engaged seriously and vigorously with the proposed amendments to South Africa’s labour law.
“I am sure we would all want the amendments to be passed into law as soon as possible so that the legal reforms can begin to change labour relations and the operation of the labour market for the better,” she said.
Through the proposed changes, Oliphant said the department wanted to strengthen the powers of the country’s labour inspectorate. This would see non-compliance with the law being criminalised and penalties being increased for violation of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Employment Equity Act.
“The Labour Relations Act is also being amended to strengthen the enforcement of arbitration awards issued by the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) as well as Bargaining and Statutory Councils.”
She said it was only through co-operation, rather than competition, that South Africa’s labour market could be changed for the better.
Oliphant said the strategic objectives of the department over the next five years included:
- Contributing to employment creation.
- Promoting equity in the labour market.
- Protecting vulnerable workers.
- Strengthening social protection.
- Promoting sound labour relations.
- Strengthening the capacity of labour market institutions.
- Strengthening the institutional capacity of the department.