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Michael Bagraim | 13 March 2023

Michael Bagraim writes that one of the most pressing issues arising from the destruction of employment creation in South Africa is the need to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses.

In concluding his recent Budget speech, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said: “Uncertainty is on the rise”. Godongwana called for bold action, but did not provide any time constraints or a proper bold way forward. As seen in the State of the Nation Address, there are no timelines or deadlines.

The portfolio committee on employment and labour met on February 22 to discuss the possibility of unpacking the State of the Nation Address (Sona). Once again, this committee did not indicate any deadlines on anything.

I specifically asked the Employment and Labour Minister and the Director General of the Department of Labour to put some timelines on some of the issues they were discussing. There was a loud silence from them.

One of the most pressing issues arising from the destruction of employment creation in South Africa is the need to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses. One proposal arising from the Sona was to exclude small businesses employing between one and 49 employees from implementing affirmative action measures. This is applaudable and will likely reap results almost immediately.

However, this issue is merely a proposal and, once again, has no deadline. We cannot afford to wait years. Furthermore, it has been proposed that small and medium enterprises will only be required to comply with Chapter 2 of the Employment Equity Act, which deals with the prohibition of unfair discrimination in employment policies and practices. The real question is when will this be implemented?

These two proposals regarding the Employment Equity Amendment Bill are good and need to be applauded. Unfortunately, our government does not have a timeline and is notorious for not implementing any proposal that might irritate the trade union movement. The frequency and duration of load shedding has substantially worsened over the past three years, leading to enormous retrenchment programmes across the country.

The Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has recognised this and has asked for more budget to handle future retrenchment disputes. With the enormous weight of a possible 6% increase to the civil service budget, the ministry will be hard-pressed to find even a small amount of money to help the CCMA in its vital duties.

The CCMA stated that “as a result of the Sona not providing any tangible solution to improve the status of the economy in the labour market, it is anticipated that there may be a negative impact on the CCMA's job-saving initiatives”. In essence, a government department has recognised the Sona did not provide any tangible solutions. It appears the Sona was just a bunch of futuristic wishes with no solutions.

We are all facing the possibility of instability in the labour market, leading to the likelihood of increased industrial action. This statement comes directly from the CCMA report to Parliament. The criminal mob behaviour that took place in KwaZulu-Natal will likely be repeated throughout the country. At times like this, we need an entity like the CCMA to help prevent disputes and workplace arguments. The CCMA has proven in the past that it can at least intervene in industrial action.

Finally, we are still experiencing enormous problems with the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The administration is still weak and dysfunctional. As we move forward with this electricity crisis, more and more people are being retrenched and are added to the UIF claimants queue.

The queues are getting longer, and the administration is getting weaker. It is time for the Department of Employment and Labour to hand over the function to another administrative body completely.

* Michael Bagraim.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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