News / Africa

South Africans Eye Possible Labor Law Amendments

Miners take part in a march outside the Anglo American mine in South Africa's North West Province, Sept. 12, 2012.
Miners take part in a march outside the Anglo American mine in South Africa's North West Province, Sept. 12, 2012.
What do you do when your employee stabs a co-worker in your warehouse? Fire him. At least, that's what Simon Arcus thought before his employee took him to labor court for wrongful termination.
 
After spending several days in court — even after the employee admitted to knifing his co-worker — Arcus eventually decided it was not worth his time or money to continue in labor court, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
 
After spending nearly $7,000, he settled with the employee.
 
"I really shouldn't have been in a position to have had to spend anything," he said. "The actual money part didn't bug me as much as the fact that I had to give my time and other staff members and go to considerable expense, when in my opinion it was an open-and-closed case."
 
In South Africa, where stringent labor laws comprehensively protect the country's workforce, some businesses and economists say the overly restrictive policies are stifling economic growth. With unemployment rates hovering around 25 percent, a growing number of business owners want to modify labor laws.
 
Current legislation stipulates that employers must first issue a verbal warning and two separate written warnings before pursuing termination. After the three warnings are issued, a hearing provides the employee a chance to state their case before being fired.
 
If a terminated employee feels they were unfairly dismissed, labor court allows them to dispute the firing.
 
In 2012, a survey found that more than half of metro-area South Africans said the country's labor laws are slowing job growth. And when the World Economic Forum released its Global Competitiveness Report earlier this year, it ranked South Africa nearly dead last: 143 out of 144 countries for hiring and firing practices.
 
But labor attorney Nick Robb says the laws were initially needed to address serious inequities stemming from the country's apartheid era.
 
"The first piece of legislation they dealt with was the labor relations act, which wasn't surprising — it made complete sense," said Robb. "They actually installed it as a very important piece of legislation. It ranked second only to the constitution among all statutes in this country."
 
But nearly 20 years after the law's passage, its utility and application are being questioned by business owners like Arcus.
 
"Generally speaking, it’s to the disadvantage of the labor market, particularly the have-nots, for there to be such a barrier to entry," he said. "Employers would rather have less staff and more machines than have to put up with the [hassles] that follow."
 
Shamima Gaibie, a labor attorney who has worked closely with unions, disagrees with arguments that labor laws limit growth. She argues that protected workers must be the priority.
 
"Given the imbalances and given the past — and given the issues that have arisen from that past — I think that for the first time in this country's history, employees have the basic rights, which I think all employees should have around the world," she said.
 
The laws, she says, remain necessary when considering today's bitter unrest and inequality for, say, miners, whose situation turned tragic in Marikana last year, when 34 striking workers were gunned down by police.
 
"I think that until and unless the employers and the trade unions achieve an amicable relationship, that generates trust and almost generates an atmosphere of working together, I think that for the moment, and maybe for the foreseeable future, legislation is needed," she said.
 
Lucy Holborn, a researcher with the South Africa Institute of Race Relations, says businesses are in a difficult position.
 
"There's huge pressure on the private sector in South Africa to sort of play its part in dealing with unemployment, dealing with poverty, dealing with inequality," she said. "The government has taken quite a big expectation on the private sector to play along in terms of job creation and that sort of thing."
 
Many of those private business owners are feeling even more pressure with the prospect that the government will enact even more protective amendments to current labor laws currently under consideration.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid