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

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora