Minister Nxesi at Third Annual CCMA
Shop Stewards and Union Officials Conference 2019
Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand, 12-13.09.2019

Key Note Address: “The Shop Stewars and Union Official in the context of legislative and policy reforms and the changing nature of work”

TW Nxesi MP, Minister of Employment and Labour

Programme directors
The Chairperson of the Governing Body of the CCMA, Mr Makhulu Ledwaba
The Director of the CCMA, Mr Cameron Morajane
Invited speakers and guests
Most importantly the delegates – shop stewards and union officials

My thanks to the conference organisers for inviting me to participate in what has become an annual national institution – and the opportunity to share information and ideas.

Looking back at the history of this Annual Conference, it does occur to me that the CCMA has always been ahead of the curve:
The inaugural conference in 2017, amongst others, addressed the need for just and equitable mechanisms to effectively manage workplace conflict – ahead of legislation which dealt with this pressing matter.
The second conference in 2018, adopted the theme: “The future of work’. This was a year before the ILO (International Labour Organisation) concluded its research and resolved on the matter.
Again, this year the theme is: “National Minimum Wage – Post Implementation Conversation’ – a conversation which will take place before the National Minimum Wage Commission releases its research report into the impact of the first six months of the implementation of the National Minimum Wage – a comprehensive investigation into its impact not only on employment, but also on poverty and inequality.

So I expect that the release of the National Minimum Wage Commission Report will re-ignite a national debate on the Minimum Wage – but a debate now based on statistical evidence rather than right-wing ideology and scare-mongering. Clearly, the CCMA and the delegates here, will be well placed to contribute and play a leading role in that debate:
Not only because you will have interrogated the issues in detail at this Conference,
But also because you are on the ground – as the CCMA and as worker representatives. You already have a good idea where any problems lie and possible changes that might need to be made.
I imagine that this discussion begins – right here, right now – with the First Plenary session to be addressed by Professor Adrian van der Walt, the Chair of the National Minimum Wage Commission.

I look forward to receiving the report, documents, inputs and any recommendations to emerge from this Conference. This will greatly assist the National Minimum Wage Commission and my Department – as well as the CCMA - in further refining the National Minimum Wage policy, regulation and implementation strategies. 

By the way, none of us is under the illusion that a minimum wage of R20 per hour will end poverty in our country. But I do believe that it is important to establish the principle of minimum standards as part of our struggle for decent work. Moreover, initial estimates were that some six million of the lowest paid workers would benefit from the new National Minimum Wage. We await the findings of the National Minimum Wage Commission in this regard.
More generally, let me commend the CCMA for its ongoing outreach work – of which this Conference is but one component – work which goes far beyond the legal and judicial functions of the CCMA. The initial motivation for the establishment of this Annual Conference was ‘that in the advancement of social justice and stability within the labour market, shop stewards and union officials have to be knowledgeable and well-versed in CCMA jurisdiction and processes for effective dispute resolution.’ 

The CCMA has made the point that ‘shop stewards and union officials are our eyes and ears on the ground. They are the first point of contact for any distressed employee seeking relief.’ And that goes for all issues across the board:
Not just around the National Minimum Wage, but also:
On issues of health and safety;
Accessing the Compensation Fund for work-related injuries and diseases;
Accessing the Unemployment Insurance Fund;
In relation to issues of equity and discrimination – and I am sure that the Chair of the Commission for Employment Equity will have a lot more to say on this matter. The recently-released Annual Report indicated – once more – that after two decades Africans and Coloureds remain grossly under-represented at all levels, but especially at management level. We have concluded that self-regulation is not working, and that enforcement may be necessary (through setting of sectoral targets and ensuring compliance by any company seeking to do business with a public body.)

Let me emphasise this issue of ‘eyes and ears on the ground’. My Department has an inspection and Enforcement Branch – but it cannot be present in every workplace. I undertook in my Budget Policy speech to expand the Branch – with 200 additional Inspectors and 500 additional Health and Safety Officers. But, we will still need your assistance in identifying rogue employers. And I give this undertaking that where such non-compliance is identified, we will inspect and enforce the law. And yes, I have heard stories of some inspectors who are rather too close to the employers. Again, inform us and we will investigate.

The changing nature of work - part of my remit from the organisers was to comment on the changing nature of work and its implications.

We all know that the World of Work is not a static entity, but constantly evolving – and at an increasingly rapid rate. Digitalisation, automation, Artificial Intelligence and the Fourth Industrial Revolution will affect us all – some jobs will go; new jobs and skills – and training and re-training – will be required. So that directly effects the course offerings of the Higher and Further Education and Training sector, the demands for certain skills by employers, as well as the need for a mind-set change by students and work-seekers.

You cannot prevent technological change – and this of course has the potential to be very disruptive in economic and societal terms. The process will need to be managed – a process which must be led by government, but needs to involve all social partners and stakeholders – labour, business, training institutions etc.

Indeed, last year the International Labour Organisation (ILO) established a Global Commission on the Future of Work. Incidentally, the Global Commission was co-chaired by our own President Cyril Ramaphosa, together with the Prime Minister of Sweden. The main message and recommendations of the Global Commission Report focuses: 
on the need to re-invigorate the social contract – between government, labour and employers,
with the intension of instituting a ‘human-centred agenda’ – in managing the introduction of new technology – so that human beings are not left behind.
Amongst others, this approach requires:
o The need for lifelong learning
o Supporting people through the transition
o Strengthening social protection
o Upholding safety standards, decent and sustainable work, and
o Shifting incentives towards a human-centred business and economic model.

Let me quote from the Declaration of the Centenary Conference of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) – this year - on these matters:

In discharging its constitutional mandate, taking into account the profound transformations in the world of work, and further developing its human-centred approach to the future of work, the ILO must direct its efforts to: 
(i) ensuring a just transition to a future of work that contributes to sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions; 
(ii) harnessing the fullest potential of technological progress and productivity growth, including through social dialogue, to achieve decent work and sustainable development, which ensure dignity, self-fulfilment and a just sharing of the benefits for all; 
(iii) promoting the acquisition of skills, competencies and qualifications for all workers throughout their working lives as a joint responsibility of governments and social partners in order to: 
– address existing and anticipated skills gaps;  
– pay particular attention to ensuring that education and training systems are responsive to labour market needs …[End quote.]

It must be reassuring, for us as a nation, that we are led by a President who sees the big picture when it comes to the Future of Work – and indeed has led research and debate on the Future of Work in international forums.

By the way, I also give thanks for the fact that we are now led by a President committed to fighting corruption and state capture. This is a necessary pre-condition for turning the economy around – as well as managing the rapid changes that will take place in the World of Work.

The Department of Employment and Labour

I need to say a few words to clarify the name change of my Department – from the Department of Labour to the Department of Employment and Labour – lest this lead to any confusion.

Traditionally, the former Department of Labour was charged with developing policy and legislation to regulate the labour market with the objectives of:
Promoting healthy industrial relations
Promoting healthy and safe conditions at work
Promoting decent work and now a National Minimum Wage
Promoting Employment Equity – so that employment, at all levels, reflects the demographics of the country.
Providing social protection through the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) and the Compensation Fund (for workplace illness and accidents).
Inspecting and enforcing labour laws and conditions.

That mandate remains. The Department of Employment and Labour will continue to champion decent working conditions and healthy industrial relations. This is essential to creating a stable labour market – which in turn is conducive to investment, growth and employment. That is in the interests of all of us – socially responsible employers and labour alike.

So, the renaming and reconfiguration of the Department to include the word ‘Employment’ needs to be unpacked. First, the renaming points to the President’s priorities: growth and jobs. The Department now has an additional focus - to implement active labour market policies with the objectives of leveraging the resources we have to preserve and create jobs, as well as to promote appropriate training and re-training which meets the skills demanded by the labour market. 

This needs to be read with the other objectives and guidelines issued by the President in relation to:
Efficient, effective government – what the President terms ‘joined up government’ – where departments are expected to collaborate and align their activities. No more silos and duplication.
Also the importance of social dialogue and a social compact – all social partners are going to need to work together to invigorate the South African economy.

The specific implications of the renaming/reconfiguring of the Department of Employment and Labour include the following:
The department will coordinate government efforts to create jobs and reduce unemployment, and will be required to change its approach from mere compliance enforcement, to facilitating job creation.

So, a much clearer focus on job creation – and providing a conducive environment for investment, growth and employment, which includes:

o A stable labour market and labour relations
o The coordination of government job creation initiatives
o Leveraging the UIF and CF (Compensation Fund) resources to preserve and create jobs (eg the UIF assisted in the recapitalisation of Edcon saving 140,000 direct and indirect jobs. This came with strict guarantees and a sustainable turnaround plan). 
o We have also launched the Training Layoff Scheme – to support distressed businesses and to utilise our entity – Productivity South Africa – to develop turnaround and rescue strategies. It has been pointed out to me that we need to promote synergies between the CCMA – which receives retrenchment applications – and Productivity SA -which is in the business of developing turnaround strategies and supporting businesses in distress.
o We have partnered with the Department of Higher Education and Training and SETAs for training directed towards the actual demands of the labour market – of which a part will be providing training relevant to the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
o Productivity South Africa – I have mentioned – will also assist in supporting and training SMMEs (small businesses).
o We are also beefing up State Employment Services to streamline the placement of work seekers (eg the roll-out of on-line Youth Centres – providing a free service to employers and work seekers including psychometric testing, career counselling, generating of CVs and verification of qualifications.)
o We are also charged with strengthening NEDLAC to promote social dialogue between the social partners and government.

Other specific commitments include:

Implementation of the Presidential Jobs Summit commitments which are subject to a tracking mechanism – indicating that 70% of commitments are already underway.

Absorption of 1 million youth – so-called NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training).

The Labour Activation Programme (LAP) – in partnership with more than 30 State Owned training providers and institutions to implement training of UIF beneficiaries. The intention is to train over 160,000 learners over a period of three years. The training will vary from Skills Programmes to Learnerships to Artisan training. As at Quarter One: 20,000 people are in training - with over 75% being young people and more than 50% being women.

The Project Development Partnership (PDP) in partnership with the UIF to create and fund early-stage businesses.  The PDP Fund is expected to create and support over 10,000 jobs (direct and indirect), particularly ensuring that Future of Work opportunities are utilized

In spelling out the new employment-related mandate of the Department, I also want to make the point very strongly that under this government, wholesale deregulation as advocated by the Opposition is a non-starter. Workers’ struggles over decades for decent work will not be overturned. 

But we do encourage engagement with business to see where red tape can be removed and bureaucracy eliminated – easing the cost of doing business. That is in all our interests, and I would urge this Conference to also give some thought to this matter.

On that note, let me wish you a successful Conference and I look forward to engaging with the CCMA on the outcomes and recommendations of the Conference.

Thank you.