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Breaking News: Bill review change tack from BCEA and LRA to the Employment Equity Bill and the new Public Employment Services Bill

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Deliberations between the Department of Labour (DoL) and Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Labour - to review Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and Labour Relations Amendment Bill were nearing an end and the focus now shifts to the Employment Equity (EE) Bill and the new Public Employment Services (PES) Bill.

This emerged today (October 30) in Cape Town when Department of Labour (DoL) Chief Director: Collective Bargaining Thembinkosi Mkalipi was presenting the department's concluding inputs on the two bills before the Portfolio Committee. Mkalipi told the committee that in terms of proposed changes in the Labour Relations Act, a third party could be deemed liable as an employer especially if his or her behavior was deemed to be prejudicial to the employee.

Mkalipi said the new amendments were also considering extending organizational rights to the minority unions. He further told the committee that in terms of the new amendments the Labour Minister would also be empowered to extend collective rights.

Mkalipi also told the committee that the newly-introduced PES Bill will be gazetted this Friday (November).

The discussions on the amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment and the Labour Relation Act have been at the centre of discussion over the past five months since Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announced that she had handed the four bills to Parliament for consideration.

Portfolio Committee on Labour chairperson Aleck Nchabeleng said the Parliamentary process to review the labour laws was still on track, and the committee was in no panic mode, "everything is secured". He said the State Law advisors would now begin their work expeditiously scrutinizing each clause with the intention to eliminating the jargon, dealing with technicalities and subjecting the bills to a legal test.

Nchabeleng said the committee was already in swing, to hold in at least two weeks, another round of Parliament's Public hearings on the EE Bill and the PES Bill.

"We will not rush things and regret later. It saves to err on the side of caution, than to panic and rush things and later ask for extra time when we have messed up. The worst case scenario is that we can still work till late.

"The four bills under consideration are linked and talk to each other. These Bills seek to improve the lives of vulnerable workers who cannot protect themselves. This is our line of a march. We will also be careful not to deliver devastating blows to capital. Our work is to try and find a balance," Nchabeleng said.

"We will now park the BCE Amendment Bill and the LR Amendment Bills in a parking lot. However, we will from time to time move to and fro. There will be nothing stopping us going back to review the bills that have been the subject of discussion over the past few months, as we consider the two other bills. The key is to finish the work at hand without creating controversy."

The current amendments of labour legislation have their origins in the growing "informalisation" or what is called "casualization" of work that has become a feature of the South African labour market over the past decade.

The review process started back in 1999. Key areas of amendments to the LRA and the BCEA have focused on addressing what is now commonly referred to as the phenomenon of labour broking. Additional amendments have been effected to these acts to: bring them in line with labour law developments; to fulfill SA's obligations as a member state of the International Labour Organisation (ILO); and to improve the functioning of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Source: Media Statement - Department of Labour: 30 October 2012

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