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Speech delivered by the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant on the occasion of policy debate on Budget Vote 28 on Labour to the National Council of Provinces held in Cape Town

12 Jun 2018

Honourable Chairperson
Cabinet Colleagues and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Chairperson of the Select Committee
Honourable Members
Leaders of our social partners
Ladies and gentlemen
Good afternoon

Honourable Members, our constitution enjoins us, among other things to;
* Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
* Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.

I submit Honourable Members that the preamble of our supreme law of the land, underscores what our struggle icons, Ma-Albertina Sisulu and the former President, the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela stood for and made huge sacrifices, so that you and I, and the people of South Africa could declare that we are free at last. We therefore share a collective responsibility and duty as South Africans, to ensure that these ideals and values are not only in theory, but, become real.

I submit Honourable Members; that Labour Laws play an important catalytic role in our quest to enhance democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights for our people. In the same token, they provide the foundation on which to build the necessary instruments towards improving the quality of life of all citizens.

As a matter of fact, our mission to put in place legal instruments that are in-keeping with our quest for social justice, has largely been accomplished.

We must also celebrate the fact that South African Labour laws are revered as being among the best in the world and as such confirms that indeed what is left for us, is to implement these policies without fear or favour. It will be unacceptable not to do this work for fear that it will upset the privileged few.

Today I stand before you and the nation, to report on our work and our plans as we implement our commitments in the 2014-2019 Medium Term Strategic Framework and the 2014 ANC Election Manifesto. We do this work, being fully cognisant of the fact that the world of work is changing more rapidly than it was the case in the past. The 4th Industrial revolution as it has become known, is truly upon us ladies and gentlemen. Given that these technologies are inherently disruptive, there is no doubt that it will add some challenges to our efforts towards addressing joblessness, poverty and inequality.

The myth that it is only high-tech occupations that will be affected by artificial intelligence, has been turned on its head, as already we are observing machines and technology taking over jobs, which for centuries have been performed by human beings.

These developments pose serious challenges for policy makers not only in South Africa, but globally.

Honourable Chairperson; the passage of the National Minimum Wage Bill from the National Assembly to this house, gives all us and especially millions of low paid workers, a glimmer of hope that the road to social justice will soon become a reality. Ordinarily, setting minimum wages, is a function of collective bargaining, however we are also aware that collective bargaining only works better, when trade unions are strong.

The challenge is that, out of the 16.4 million employed people in South Africa as at May 2018, all the trade unions combined, represent less than 5 million workers. This means that, there is a large number of workers that have no union representation and as such, are not likely to benefit directly from collective bargaining processes. These are often workers that trade unions have not been able to organise, or, their unions are not strong enough to represent them through collective bargaining. Therefore, instruments such as the Ministerial Determinations and the National Minimum Wage, are designed, precisely to address the plight of this category of workers.

I have said this before, and I want, again, to underscore that, whilst the introduction of the national minimum wage may not mean a lot to those who are well looked after in the world of work, but for the majority of the vulnerable workers, some of whom still earn way below R1500 a month, it will make a huge difference. The National minimum wage, Honourable Members, is by no means a living wage, but a good start in that direction.

Honourable Chairperson, we are also happy to report that the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill have been passed on to this house. You are aware that these Bills, like the National Minimum Wage, generated a lot of public interest.

We stand ready to tackle questions and concerns that may arise out of the NCOP processes when considering these Bills. We are aware of some of the issues that were raised in the National Assembly ranging from Sections 32, the code of good practice with respect to Picketing, Secrete Ballot and the extension of Bargaining Council collective agreements.

We will, when called upon to do so, provide clarity on these issues when the time comes.

Honourable Chairperson, Let me preface my input on other elements of service delivery, by noting that the number of people who now have access to the services of the department, has grown significantly since 1994. The service offerings of the department have also increased many-fold from what it used to be in the past. We also recognise that the increase in the services we provide, and the increased number of people that have access to our services, has, inadvertently, put a strain on our infrastructure.

It is undeniable that our infrastructure has not kept up with the volumes of people that use our service offerings, as a result, this has inevitably compromised the quality of service delivery in some instances. For this reason, we have developed plans to ramp up our infrastructure and modernisation of our service delivery platforms.

Improving the infrastructure and capacity of our Labour centres, is at the core of our efforts to improve service delivery. The Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Compensation Fund are leading in these initiatives.

In addition to putting in place bricks and mortar service delivery centres in some areas and int0roducing mobile service platforms, we are also modernising the infrastructure through embracing and enhancing technology.

Compensation Fund

Compensation Fund has launched CF-Filing which removes the manual registration and other prescribed processes. We are very pleased that within a short space of time, over eight thousand new employees have been registered and over hundred and sixty thousand Return of Earning were, for the first time submitted, using the new CF Filling system.

The new innovation in the Compensation Fund, enables the employers to register, pay and obtain a letter of Good Standing without having to visit the Compensation Fund or a Labour Centre. Whilst in the past, it would take between 30 to 90 days for an employer to register with the Fund, the new online system enables the employer to do this in less than 1 hour.

Furthermore, the Compensation Fund has made great progress in fixing some of its other challenges of the past, including paying out benefits to its beneficiaries on time. During the period under review, the fund adjudicated 189 788 claims on time, resulting in payment of benefits to deserving beneficiaries to the tune of 3,6 billion Rand and a total of 11.7 billion Rand since 2014. This is indeed a signal that the fund has dealt swiftly with some of its challenges. Now that phase 1 of the action plan has been completed, the Fund has now turned its focus to ensuring that all inefficiencies and bottlenecks are eliminated.

The Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Amendment Bill has taken rather too long to be finalised at Nedlac. We are still hoping that we will still be able to table it in parliament before the end of the current term.

To this end the Compensation Fund has initiated a process to acquire four fully equipped busses to service our communities. Two of these busses will be equipped as Mobile medical Clinics and the other two with administrative capabilities.

The other two Medical Clinic Busses will provide services such as, Occupational Therapy, asses hearing, lung functioning, vision, weight, height and general physical conditions to assist in determining liability in terms of COIDA, as well as, the need for medical aid. The two Administrative buses will cater for COID services in the form of registration, assessment, claim processing, medical & compensation benefits.

UIF

The UIF on the other hand, has introduced an online U-Filing system which allows employers to transact with the fund on line. We have also introduced Wi-Fi Connectivity in our Labour Centres as an enabler, where those seeking assistance, can access the information they need, without having to stand in the queue. We are aware that the UIF for the first time in many years, is faced with reputational risks due, primarily, to poor service at various labour centres across the country. To respond to this challenge, a comprehensive Service Delivery Action Plan has been developed and is being implemented as we speak. Key in the Service Delivery Plan is the resolve to pursue customer centric processes that will assist in breaking log-jams in service delivery.

We have set ourselves ambitious deliverables which include, but not limited to: reviewing our business processes; upgrading our IT Infrastructure and tools of trade; updating our labour centre model and filling the 40 vacancies as a matter of urgency. This will be underpinned by training and retraining of our staff on customer service etiquette.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund has also initiated the process to employ over 200 Client Services Officers to be deployed across labour centres in order to improve service delivery. We are also adding new capacity in our call centres as part of our drive to improve service delivery.

We are excited about these ground-breaking achievements as they truly demonstrate our commitment to upgrade our infrastructure for the benefits of our people. There are many other initiatives that we are driving in pursuit of healing the divisions of our past, establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. We do all of these things in order to improve the quality of life of all our citizens especially those who are vulnerable and in distress.

We have prioritised communities in rural and semi-rural areas to be the first to benefits from this additional capacity.

Honourable Chairperson, We will continue with our programme to enhance the employability of our people through various active labour market interventions.

We will also continue to work with the Department of Higher Education and Training, Public Works on the Expanded Pubic Works Programme exit strategies and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges on up-skilling UIF beneficiaries.

LAP

The Labour Activation Programme will continue in its efforts to train and re-train workers, targeting real employment opportunities with a strong bias to rural and semi-rural communities. To date the programme has been successful in training people in sectors such as Building and Civil Construction and enhancing Entrepreneurial Skills. Training Lay Off Scheme and Turnaround Solutions programme on the other hand has also contributed immensely to job savings that would have been lost through retrenchments. Our focus going forward is to massify outputs and grow the reach of the programmes.

Our work in this area is predicated on a principle that we are not training for its sake, but we are only training people on skills that guarantee employment at the end of training.

You will be pleased to know that to date, a total of fifty-nine Co-operatives were provided with training through a partnership with Agri-Seta. These included 4 from Limpopo; 14 from Gauteng; 6 from the Eastern Cape; 3 from the Northern Cape; 8 in North West; 20 in Kwa-Zulu Natal and 4 in Mpumalanga. We will continue this partnership and also bring the other provinces on board.

Investment

The Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Compensation fund are leveraging their investments in the manner that seeks to create employment opportunities for our people. We do this by partnering with the Public Investment Corporation, to invest in projects that not only promise healthy financial return on investment, but which also yield meaningful social dividends.

The Unemployment fund partnered with the Industrial Development Corporation by injecting 4 billion Rand of its investible income into a developmental fund that has helped save thousands of jobs in the distressed manufacturing sector, while also creating new jobs. We are satisfied that this partnership is delivering on its objective given that already, the it has created 29 895 jobs and saved 16 560 jobs to date.

It is regrettable however, that the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill has had to be delayed in order to accommodate the amendment brought about as a result of the Private Members Bill. I can report though, that the regulations have been finalised in anticipation of the Bill becoming law soon. We are happy that workers who submitted claims in the period between January 2017 and the point when the Bill is signed into law, will be paid the shortfall retrospectively. Therefore, no worker will lose out on the improved benefits that took effect in January 2017.

Inspection and enforcement

Honourable Chairperson; The imminent advent of the National Minimum Wage and other pertinent amendments to the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill, will no doubt re-enforce inspection and enforcement. Of note, is the new role of the CCMA which will provide the dispute resolution capability and recovery of monies payable to workers. We are pleased to report that our Inspection and Enforcement has developed an enforcement strategy to align with the CCMA's envisaged enforcement role.

Employment Equity Enforcement

Despite the JSE claiming and insisting in the media last year, that their listed companies were all compliant, we discovered and reviewed 74 of their listed entities that were found to be non-compliant.

Overall 45 non-compliant companies were challenged in Court and their cases awaits finalising by the Court.

NEDLAC

The National Economic Development and Labour Council continues to carry out its work guided by its mandate and scope. Whilst there may be challenges organisationally, the Council considered and concluded over 12 Bills and policy matters in the year under review. These include the topical National Minimum Wage Bill, Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill. Whilst the Council is working relatively well, there is room for improvement. We are aware that one of the biggest task that the Council will have to deliver on going forward, is the much-awaited Jobs Summit.

In addition the Council is currently dealing with a range of policy matters, including but not limited to; Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Amendment Bill; National Health Insurance; Comprehensive Social Security and Retirement Reform Proposals and Section 77 matters.

CCMA

The CCMA continues to demonstrate that it is capable and equal to its mandate. It is worth noting that it was the first Labour market institution to examine its state of readiness to implement the National Minimum Wage Bill in anticipation of it becoming law. Its efficiency and effectiveness in implementing its mandate on Conciliations, and Arbitrations to ensure that social justice becomes a reality for vulnerable workers is remarkable. On average, the CCMA takes 23 days to deal with conciliation cases as compared to the legislated target of 30 days, and 64 days to deal with arbitration cases.

Intensifying dispute management and dispute prevention is gaining traction and remain a priority for the CCMA. The CCMA conducted 3 592 outreach activities aimed at both raising awareness of its value proposition and capacity building.

More than fifty-three thousand people participated in capacity building engagements thereby improving their understanding of their rights and responsibilities in terms of the labour law. This programme also dealt with educating ordinary workers on how to access the services and the relief that CCMA provides.

The CCMA constantly provides guidance and support in collective bargaining matters with an overriding aim to promote labour market stability. By way of illustration, A total of four thousand, seven hundred and three (4 703) mutual interest or potentially strike related matters were dealt with across all CCMA offices during the 2017/18 financial year. Out of these, fifty nine percent (59%) were resolved and 80% of Section 150 matters were settled.

The CCMA Regional offices ensured that, in the course of section 189A facilitations, the CCMA assisted in saving 25 196 jobs that were likely to be lost through retrenchments in this regard. Indeed, the Institution is doing us proud and punches way above its weight.

PRODUCTIVITY SA

Productivity SA has, through the Turnaround Solutions Programme provided support to 71 companies facing economic distress.

To this end, 8515 jobs were saved in the process. The institution also offers the Workplace Challenge Programme (WPC), which is an enterprise support programme with a focus on achieving a productive high-income economy which is globally competitive targeting the productive sectors of the economy which have a potential for labour absorption. Over the past financial year, 590 companies were supported through the WPC Programme and over 45 232 jobs were saved. Companies which were supported include those in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) at Dube Tradeport (Richards bay), Saldanah Bay (Western Cape) and East London Industrial Development Zone, as well as Black Owned Enterprises including Black Industrialists.

In addition, a total of 21570 which include SMEs and Co-operatives, were trained and 197 workplace forums were established and empowered to promote consultation and dialogue on productivity improvement solutions in the workplace.

Honourable Members, previously we displayed here at parliament the Public Employment Service bus equipped with technology to assist work seekers with registering of their CV's on our database for potential employment opportunities provided by employers.

In the last financial year 2017/2018 over 20000 worker seekers were assisted with finding job opportunities.

Last year we reported on a partnership between the Compensation Fund and South African Institute for Chartered Accountants where 100 learners were taken on the training programme focusing on Medical, Accounting and Actuarial skills. The geographic spread of the learners covered all our nine provinces. You will be pleased to know that the first intake of 100 learners have all progressed to the next level. We will continue with this programme going forward.

Honourable Members, we have realised that many communities are not aware of their rights and responsibilities in terms of our Labour Laws. We have also become aware that communities have very limited knowledge of the various government sponsored support programmes that are designed to help them. For these reasons, we launched an aggressive Ministerial out-reach programme with a strong rural and semi-rural bias, to inform communities on our labour laws and the services that government provides in general, and how to access such services.

We do this work in collaboration with other government departments such as Social Development, Mineral Resources, Small Business Development, Higher Education and Training, Public Works and Home Affairs.

Our outreach programme takes the form of Izimbizo and to date we have covered areas such as Ndwedwe, eMpangeni, Phongolo, Sithebe and Ingwavuma in KwaZulu-Natal. Memel, Vrede, Villiers, Frankfort and Warden in the Free State, Riversdale and Kylmore in the Western Cape. We reached and touched well over ten thousand people through Izimbizo.

Over seven thousand community members who attended our sessions, received services, ranging from pay-out of unemployment Fund benefits, tracking Compensation Fund and ex-mine workers claimants and provided guidance to small business on how to access government support programmes.

Over 1.5 million rand in unclaimed benefits, were paid out to qualifying beneficiaries purely because of this out-reach programme. We are therefore determined to continue with our Izimbizo as the platform to empower our communities and to provide on-site assistance.

Honourable members, you will recall that South Africa assumed the chair of two international bodies this year. I am pleased to report that we hosted a successful session of the SADC Ministers of Employment & Labour and Social partners in March this year. We will also be hosting Ministers of Labour and Employment, and Social partners from the Brics Countries shortly.

I am pleased to report that we attended the International Labour Conference in Geneva a few days ago. The Conference dealt various topics including the challenges of the Future of Work, Social Dialogue and Tripartism, Curbing Violence and harassment in the World of Work and the new push for equality for women in the world of work. I am also happy that representatives from the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises and the Portfolio Committee on Labour, were part of the South African delegation.

Honourable Members, you will be pleased to know that the ILO extended an invitation to our President to address the ILO's centenary Conference in June 2019, pleasantly coinciding as it does, with the historic year of the celebration of the birth of South Africa's first democratically elected President, the late Nelson Mandela. This is indeed a gesture of the highest honour for South Africa and its people.

As I close, I want to assure you that issues raised by the AG are being attended to and I am assured that there is progress in this regard. The concern by some of you that the UIF seems to regressed, the filling of vacancies and unauthorised and irregular expenditure are also part of the priority areas that we are dealing with.

Honourable Members, You will notice that our Budget allocation weighting, takes into account the areas that require capacity enhancements going forward. Of the total budget vote, five key programmes will take the biggest share given the challenges and work load that awaits them;
* the CCMA with an allocation of 963 million Rands
* Administration; 917,3 million
* Inspection and Enforcement 598.2 million
* Public employment services 582.7 million and
* Nedlac with an allocation of 31.7 million Rands

Honourable Chairperson, Let me conclude by thanking The Deputy Minister of Labour, Nkosi Advocate Phathekile Holomisa in absentia, for his support; also extend my sincere gratitude to the Chairperson and Honourable Members of the Select Committee, for their support, advice and guidance.

I hereby table the 2018/19 Budget Vote 28 totalling 3.2 billion Rands for the Department of Labour for your consideration.

I thank you

     
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