I refer to the letter entitled “Better labour relations in SA essential” (January 28). The views of the writer are simplistic and theoretical.
The writer suggests South Africa’s economic role players must plan sustainable and equitable labour relations for the future. Is the writer aware the Labour Relations Act sets out the rules for the fair treatment of labour in the workplace?
Let us view the relations in operation at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality as an example.
My view is that the relations at this local authority between employer and worker are of the highest order, with no complaints especially forthcoming from the municipal worker in terms of the benefits received, plus the added comfort of minimal actions taken for transgressions, lengthy periods of suspensions on full pay and time utilised to cater for the furthering of studies during such periods of non-working and employment perks involving corruption practices without recourse.
With such “exemplary” relations existing between employer and worker at this local authority has there been any discernible improvement in service delivery one might feel appropriate to ask? I submit that few, if any, of the ratepayers in Port Elizabeth would agree that any improvement in service delivery has taken place, notwithstanding the obvious amiable relations prevailing.
The contrary is discernible. It is clear that the missing factor in administering performance is the application of effective management on the part of the local authority.
What exactly is meant by the phrase, “sustainable labour relations”, mentioned in the letter? Presumably the expectations of the workers would be achieved as well as the expectations of the employers and these to such a degree that they would be mutually acceptable and therefore sustainable.
While the worker would want to maximise his or her benefits the employer would insist on a commensurate performance in terms of productivity to remain competitive given that such businesses would also have to be B-BBEE compliant to remain competitive among other statutory measures levied by the state. The factor of productivity would be a major stumbling block in the plan advocated by the writer.
It should be borne in mind that South Africa operates within a mixed economic system, driven by competitive trading. If South Africa as a nation is to achieve real sustainable economic growth and reduce unemployment it has to strive to become a sustainable “net exporter”, that is its exports must exceed its imports.
To achieve this, businesses must play their part in ensuring that employees receive the required training for the skills needed to compete in the global market and that employees are rewarded fairly in terms of productivity. Unemployment in South Africa is in the region of 25.2% of an eligible working population (five million unemployed in relation to a total workforce of 20.1 million as outlined per SA Statistics Survey of the first quarter of last year).
With three persons possibly to a family it means that some 15 million people out of a total population of 54 million (28%) have no work-generated income and are in a desperate Dickensian poverty-type environment, with young (and not so young) “Oliver Twists” roaming the streets for handouts to procure some food. Not to mention the aspects of related crime to put some food on the table.
South Africa’s domestic market is not large enough to absorb the total employment of eligible workers and therefore as a country South Africa has to increase its exports to have any effect on the huge level of unemployment. The creation of jobs in my opinion is what is needed urgently, not larger handouts to the existing workers.
Moreover, a proper understanding of the economics and dynamics involved by the trade unions is urgently required to initiate fewer incidences of strikes and labour disruptions taking place. This in turn would lead to improved investor confidence placed in South Africa by the outside world.
Such increased investment is what is urgently required to promote employment through new industries established.
-E A Sharp, professional accountant and past financial director in the corporate sector, Port Elizabeth