LABOUR: Business Unhappy With Legislation
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THE Cape Chamber of Commerce has been shocked to learn that draft labour legislation which required a ballot of workers before a strike could take place appears to have been scrapped.
Cosatu says in a statement on April 26 and confirmed in the organisation’s May Day statement that the scrapping was the result of negotiations it held with ANC leaders.
“If this is so I’m shocked,” said Mr Michael Bagraim, President of the Chamber. “The amendments to labour legislation were negotiated at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) where all parties were present and able to express their views. If the resulting agreements have now been changed in a meeting behind closed doors between the ANC and COSATU then Nedlac may become irrelevant.”
In its May Day statement Cosatu said “the Draft Bill forcing us back to the apartheid days where we were forced to hold a compulsory ballot before a strike can commence has been withdrawn”.
Mr Bagraim said this was utter nonsense. Many countries had legislation requiring ballots before a strike could take place. It was a basic democratic right and had nothing to do with apartheid.
“Cosatu does not want a secret ballot because it will give rank and file workers more say. The workers know there will be no pay while they are on strike so they will not be as keen to strike as some of the union officials.” In some recent strikes the workers had actually lost ground because the increases gained had not been sufficient to compensate for the lost wages.
There was no doubt that a secret ballot would produce a better quality decision than a rowdy and possibly “packed” meeting where the hot-heads might be in control. A decision to strike by secret ballot would reflect the views of the moderates as well as the activists and would earn more respect from employers. This, in turn, should ensure a calmer and more fruitful negotiation process.
One of the great frustrations faced by employers in recent years has been the belief that some of the real issues were not always on the table. Employers were concerned about wages, benefits and productivity while union negotiators were also interested in union politics and other issues not directly related to the workplace.
“A strike which has the support of the majority of the workers is likely to be more peaceful as there should be no need to persuade and coerce workers into continued support,” said Mr Bagraim. “It should also ensure a shift of emphasis from visible demonstrations to the basic right of the withholding of labour.”
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