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South Africa’s intervention in the debate on the Director-General’s report to the 107th International Labour Conference held on 28 May to 8 June 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland

by Lloyd Ramutloa last modified 2018-06-04 14:27

4 June 2018

Mr President
Vice Presidents
Director General
Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

The preamble of the ILO’s constitution is instructive, and it is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.  It has provided a solid foundation and a point of reference for our work.  Let us recall that this seminal declaration states two fundamental claims: (1) that universal peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice, and (2) that the failure of any nation to adopt humane labour standards may be an obstacle in the way of social justice …”

The harsh reality that confronts all of us though, is that 100 years on, there still exist conditions of social injustices, hardship and deprivation, poverty, unemployment and inequality being the most profound hallmarks of social injustices.
As we approach the ILO centenary in 2019, the Report of the Director General is apt when it reminds us that, whilst we have made major progress since our inception in 1919, there are still numerous challenges that confront us right now, and those that are guaranteed would emerge as we move forward. 

It is true that in those areas where we have move forward as a collective, the impact has been much greater and likewise in those areas, where collective efforts have been erratic and/or non-existent, progress has been dismal.   We must accept that we work in an environment that is so dynamic and changes happen mush quicker and are more complex than it was the case in the formative years of the ILO.  This will therefore require higher levels of sophistication when designing and crafting interventions.

Mr President, the first President of the Democratic South Africa, the late Nelson Mandela, was apt when he said, and I quote, ‘After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb’, Close quote.  We have indeed achieved major progress in our hundred years journey, but as Mandela put it, we have discovered that there are many more challenges that lie ahead.   The Report of the Director General reminds us that whilst we have reasons to celebrate our achievements to date, there is equally a lot of work to do.

Let me, all-be-it briefly, give some sound bites on how South Africa is doing in meeting our obligations on the main thrust of the DG’s Report, covering just the thematic pillars.


Noting the harsh reality that women have 30 per cent less chance of being in the labour force, and when they do, they are often at the bottom of the economic ladder.  Noting the harsh reality that women continue to be paid far less than men across the world, even when they do the work of equal value.  

In pursuit of our effort to address this challenge, we have reviewed out Employment Equity legal framework by introducing the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Non-compliance will soon carry severe punitive consequences for offenders.  We have also made compliance with the Employment equity law, a precondition to do business with the state which is both a carrot and a stick.  Every designated employer will require a letter of good standing on the Employment Equity compliance before it could be considered as a service provider to the state and its organs.

Whilst we understand that the law only on its own, will not be sufficient to achieve the desired outcomes, we are also upscaling our inspection and enforcement and rolling out awareness programmes in partnership with our social partners.  We have also simplified the legal framework by removing ambiguities in dealing with sexual harassment at the work place.

Violence is considered a crime in our laws, and harassment in the world of work is not different.  Workers have an option of pursuing claims of violence and harassment in the world of work, either through the labour dispute resolution route or criminally. We understand that for this ambition to work, it will require a paradigm shift in dealing with the stigma and victimisation that is perennial on such matters.   Workers themselves, will need to be firm in standing up against the perpetrators and not back-off at critical stages of the processes. 

Social dialogue and Tripartism is evolving and new challenges emerge given that social dialogue does exist in isolation to the social, economic and geopolitical realities. South Africa, constantly evaluates and assess methods of enhancing not so much the processes, but the quality of the outcomes.

Our model of social dialogue is not necessarily tripartite in character, but more than that given Women, Youth, Cooperatives and Civic Associations are part of the social dialogue institutional arrangements. 

Whilst it is working relatively well, there will always be room for improvement.  Our social dialogue ad tripartism was put to a test recently, when our social partners were ceased with negotiating the very first National Minimum Wage Legislation for South Africa.  It was a difficult, but robust process which resulted in the social partners concluding far-reaching agreements on a range of key modalities of what a National Minimum Wage Legislation should look like.

The resilience of our social dialogue was again tested recently, when we engaged our social partners on key amendments of the Labour Relations Legislation and the Basic conditions of Employment Act.  Whilst there were disagreements in some areas, which is very normal in true social dialogue, these were handled with delicate care and with incredible levels of mutual respect.

We stand ready to make our contribution in addressing the challenges raised in the Director General’s report. 
We are also ready to share our experiences and learn from every single member of this body in order to enhance the quality of the outcomes.  We thank the ILO and the ILO leadership located in our country office in Pretoria for the support when we navigate some of the difficult macro and cross- border challenges.

Let us all put our shoulders behind the new push for equality in order to make Social Justice a reality in our lifetime.

I thank you

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