Minister urges resolution of strike

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pretoria - Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has urged both labour and business to reach a speedy resolution in the ongoing petrochemical industry strike, saying the industry was critical to South Africa's economy.

"Prolonging the strike is not in the public interest... At the moment, negotiations are between the workers and the private sector. What we're offering as government is that there are structures that the government has, like the CCMA. That is when the government can intervene but we can't just impose ourselves," Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Tuesday.

Today, unions took a revised wage offer to members. Workers are demanding minimum wages of R6 000 and transport allowances, among others.

On Monday, unions, including members of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu), held talks with the National Petroleum Employers Association in Johannesburg.

Oliphant emphasised that violent behaviour during strikes was not acceptable, as it undermined collective bargaining.

On labour broking, the minister said the central objective of the current round of amendments to labour legislation was to deal with the increase in the practice. One of the demands of striking employees is an end to labour broking, as it is seen as depriving many workers of basic protection under the labour law.

"It's a key challenge that faces us. It's a challenge that will involve expanding the scope of protection beyond those who are engaged in formal employment relationships," said Oliphant.

In December 2010, the department published bills containing amendments to dispute resolution processes and collective bargaining, among others. The department also seeks to have legal amendments to regulate fixed term contracts, temporary work and the temporary employment agency sector.

Oliphant said government has agreed to extend the timeframe to allow the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to broaden the scope of amendments, including equity and atypical work.

This is expected to be completed at the end of August.

"If not, they will probably request us also to extend, but we believe by the end of the year because that is what we have said ... At least by the first quarter of 2012, those bills should be tabled in Parliament," said the minister.

Oliphant said workers who are calling for the end of labour broking in wage talks should separate that from wage issues.

She urged organised labour to inform members of Nedlac of developments.

Additionally, the department will receive R60 million from Treasury that will go towards the training and employment of inspectors to monitor labour brokers.

Nedlac will meet on Thursday with two other meetings scheduled for August.