Fedusa Comments On The Labour Vote: Vote 22 Of 1998

The FEDUSA comments on "Vote 22: Labour" focus only on key areas of concern and deals with the current policies being implemented. Major problems face the labour force. One is mounting unemployment. The projected growth rate of the Government does not bode well for government's plans to create 270,000 jobs each year between now and 2000. South Africa requires an economic growth rate of 5% just to absorb the new entrants to the labour market. Labour policies should incorporate:
The elimination of discrimination in the labour market
Focussing on training and education which strengthen the human resource function
A greater focus on the health and safety aspect of the workplaces and to ensure
that the workplace meet international safety standards
Introduction of labour legislation which address the various aspects of training, discrimination and health and safety.

The Labour Ministry and its related institutions should be playing a leading and pro active role in the supporting of the development of the multi-party policy formulation institutions that will enable the labour movement and other organisations of civil society to continue playing an active and meaningful role in the tripartite bodies, in particular NEDLAC.

Allocation: Labour relations
Of grave concern to FEDUSA is the allocation of funds to Labour relations for 1998/99 up to the year 2000. Currently the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is struggling to address the backlog of cases to be dealt with and as a result more commissioners are appointed and will have to be appointed in the near future. Labour as one of the most important economic resources in South Africa continues to be affected by the socio-political environment and economic trends. Labour productivity declines when the socio-political environment is hostile. South Africa has developed a growing realization that political instability and the upholding of democratic principles and practices are contributing factors to productivity. FEDUSA believes that the cornerstone of the approach of Government should be that labour is not a cost to be minimized but an asset whose potential should be realized.

Employment equity Legislation
The cost implication of the employment equity law -an estimated R28 million a year to administer- is very high in relation to the cost of running the CCMA and NEDLAC for an example. The funds allocated as follows: R15 million towards inspections, R7 million towards monitoring and analysis, R3 million on policy development and R3 million on the Commission for Employment equity, indicates the high cost of the implementation of the law and it is of concern to FEDUSA that the administration of the law takes such a big chunk of the labour budget. Means should be implemented by the Labour Ministry to try and save costs and minimize the expenditure.

Strengthening of civil society fund
The allocation towards the strengthening of civil society is a factor, which must be taken into account as part of the Human resource development of the Labour vote. The Development Institute of Training, Support and Education of Labour (DITSELA) provide education, training, and support to trade unions and ensure the availability of resources, information, research capacity and development programmes to Labour. The budget of DITSELA received from the "Strengthening of civil society fund" is crucial in ensuring that the institute can continue contributing to the development of labour. DITSBLA has been the major recipient of money from this fund in 1996 and 1997. It stems from a commitment from the Department of Labour in 1994 to fund a trade union education institute. DITSELA needs a commitment from the Department of Labour towards a three-year funding agreement towards the funding of DITSFLA. 50% of the fund strengthening of civil society must be committed to DITSELA which is a labour service organization established by Labour for labour and primarily serves the trade unions and utilize trade union educationist's and researchers from all the labour service organisations.

Allocation: Occupational health and safety
FEDUSA welcomes the initiative of developing a national policy on occupational health and safety to be introduced in 1998. It is however questionable whether the budget allocation which will be increased over the three year period will address all the health and safety problems in the workplace. The employers have neglected health and safety for many years and the national initiative by the Department should focus on training and education of employees on the issues pertaining to health and safety in the workplace. Current structures should also be revised and the functioning scrutinized and where needed revamped as there is no consistent legislative structures, no uniform method of reporting accidents and disease, no statistics which reflect the full extent of the loss of life and health problems caused at the workplace.

Allocation: Human resource development
The increase in budget for human resource development is welcomed taken into consideration the implementation of the Skills development bill to be implemented in 1998. The legislation once implemented will help to ensure a flexible and skilled workforce who is globally competitive and productive. The unemployment situation in South Africa will also have to be addressed by real means of job creation and FEDUSA foresee that the budget allocated will also address job creation strategies.

Of concern is the implementation of the training and education programmes in the different workplaces and the time period of implementation. The lack of skills required to meet the needs of the expanding domestic and international markets are a critical factor in the macro-economic development of South Africa. In the context of increasing globalization of the economy, competition hinges on rapid technological advancement, higher productivity, value-added production and well-developed skills. If the South African market is to succeed in developing a growing and competitive economy the human resources necessary must be developed to be utilized to its full potential.

Unemployment Insurance Fund
The current status of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) as a result of increasing and sustained unemployment over the past few years is critical and inadequately funded. FEDUSA would appeal to the Department of Labour to develop effective means to fund the Unemployment Insurance Fund providing assistance to the unemployed employees. The main disadvantages of the fund are the insufficient contributions by the Government in the past, the fund is not in a position to cope with the social consequences of economic restructuring and structural unemployment, no formal policy on unemployment coverage exist, no linkage between the fund and retraining or job creation initiatives, the benefits provided by the fund are insufficient, for example:
benefits are only payable for a maximum period of twenty-six weeks
workers placed on short-time or who have been temporarily laid-off do not qualify for benefits
maternity benefits are not payable to women who earn more than one third of their earnings from their employers during maternity leave.

Employment creation is at the heart of efforts aimed at creating a democratic and prosperous society. Employment creation can in the short term only be created by means of focussed programmes. In the long term employment creation must be rooted in sound macro-economic policies integrated with labour market policies.