Chairperson of the PSCBC, Mme Ingrid Dimo;
Vice- Chairpersons of Council, Mr Mpfariseni Phophi and Ms Thandeka
Chairperson of the PSC, Adv. Senzani
President of COSATU, Ms Zingiswa Losi;
Chairperson of the ILC, Mr Basil Manuel;
Director of the ILO Pretoria Office, Dr Joni Musabayana;
Presidents and General Secretaries of Trade Unions;
Senior Leadership of Government;
General Secretary of the PSCBC, Mr Frikkie De Bruin;
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed an honour for me to address this august occasion of the
hosting of the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council’s,
Collective Bargaining Indaba.
The theme Advancing and protecting the workplace democratization
through strengthening collective bargaining so as to ensure economic
development, social justice and labour peace within the public service
touches on a matter that is not only topical in South Africa, but
globally. Those of you who have been following the global debates
on collective bargaining in the ILO, will attest to this fact.
The theme in itself, captures the essence of the aspirations of our
people, the spirit of our constitution and almost every single piece of
our labour legislations. This event marks yet another milestone
in the history of this Council. It is also a pleasant coincident that
this Indaba, takes place in the year when we celebrate the centenary
lives and legacies of the first State President of our democratic South
Africa, Comrade Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, and Comrade Albertina
Sisulu, stalwarts who contributed and sacrificed so much, so that you
and I can experience what it means to be free.
These stalwarts left an indelible mark on our society for having laid a
solid foundation for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and
prosperous society. Their legacies live on in our commitment to ensure
a just and fair society for all, including the rights to dignity and
freedom of expression.
To celebrate these lives, we need to stay true to the ideals, and
unwavering commitment to justice, equality and a non-racial South
Africa. Their strength, resilience and their will, and “the never
say surrender attitude” even in the darkest days of apartheid, remain
an inspiration to many of us.
Programme Director, Esteemed delegates, I am particularly pleased that
you will also be unpacking collective bargaining within the broader
global context. It will be important that as you deal with these
issues in the various commissions, you also develop a common
understanding of what the various global developments mean for
collective bargaining. Finding convergence in how we define the real
meaning of Advancing and protecting the workplace democratization
through strengthening collective bargaining in order to ensure economic
development, social justice and labour peace within the public service,
is an excellent starting point.
Judging from the topics on the programme, I have no doubt that this
provides the much-needed platform for the Council to grapple with the
global challenges confronting all of us, and what it means for the
labour movement globally and the labour market institutions. We
need to make it our business to understand the key drivers of the
economic challenges we face.
It would be ambitious if not difficult, to make meaningful gains in the
decent work and job creation agenda, if trade unionisation is on the
decline. International solidarity will remain a pipe-dream if
trade unions are on the back foot. Trade unions by their very nature,
work better if they have members en-masse. Maybe the starting point
should be to discuss the question of how do we create conditions for
workers to once again see value in joining trade unions. How do
we attract workers back into the unions and how do we forge unity among
all trade union formations.
Ladies and Gentlemen; The Labour Relations Act, like all our pieces of
labour legislations, derive its mandate from our Bill of Rights as
provided for in the Constitution. It is worth noting that the
legislature by legislating bargaining councils in the public service,
encapsulated the commitment and respect of the State as an
Your own constitution as the Council, underscores your commitment to
respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights contained in the Bill
of Rights. The purpose of the Labour Relations Act, as you very
well know, is equally to advance economic development, social justice,
labour peace and the democratization of the workplace which is in line
with our Bill of fundamental rights. Your theme is therefore very
relevant and apt in this regard.
You also know that in many countries, public service is by and large
defined as essential service, which severely curtails who can, or
cannot take part in a strike. In South Africa, we have relied on
the robustness of our collective bargaining institutions to create an
environment where public sector disputes do not end up with strike
action. The key question we need to ask, is whether or not strike
prevention in the public sector is real or just a mere ambition.
Chairperson, this Council has a history of having navigated difficult
issues with a great deal of success as I will illustrate briefly.
Esteemed Delegates: Let us recall the first ever 2001 Public Service
Job Summit which established joint mechanisms on transformation,
employment practices and socio-economic development in the public
service. We dare not forget that parties emerged from this historical
summit with a framework agreement, later made an agreement of Council,
committing to reducing levels of unemployment, eradicating poverty and
restructuring the State to respond to the challenges of service
The framework agreement was a striking example of the synergy between
the state as employer and public service unions through the PSCBC, in
addressing issues of transformation and restructuring in the public
The then Chairperson of the PSCBC, now serving as Honourable Judge in
the High Court of South Africa, Judge Edwin Molahlehi, said that “the
agreement demonstrated the parties’ commitment to face the twin
challenge of transforming the public service to improve the reach,
depth, efficiency and quality of social service delivery, whilst at the
same time improving the conditions of service, quality and
sustainability of jobs for employees of the public service.” Indeed, we
all concur with his observation.
You will also recall the signing of PSCBC Resolution 7 of 2002, the
framework agreement on the transformation and restructuring of the
Public Service. This agreement was the most comprehensive
transformation initiative in the public service ever.
Although initially labelled as a mechanism for Government to retrench
white workers and to act in a reversed discriminatory manner, no forced
retrenchments as a result of the implementation of the agreement ever
occurred. The majority of excess personnel were re-absorbed into the
Again in 2002, the Council signed an agreement outlining a process of
addressing the restructuring of the Government Employees Pensions Fund
(GEPF). This was a milestone agreement allowing all public servants to
be treated fairly in addressing the apartheid pensions system.
In 2006, Parties further bettered the macro-benefits of employees with
the signing of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2006 allowing for the
establishment of a medical scheme for public servants, to be known as
the Government Employees Medical Scheme, (GEMS), to ensure greater
accessibility by providing affordable medical cover to all employees,
especially lower income earners to take up medical cover.
In 2013, Parties entered into PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2013 confirming the
“service charter” for the public service into a collective agreement.
We are all signatories to the Service Charter, a product of this
institution, the PSCBC, which is a commitment by ourselves to provide
better and more efficient services to all South Africans. The
core of this commitment, is to provide citizens with better services
while, also respecting them as human beings.
You will agree with me that the bottom line is about establishing a
caring relationship, built on trust and respect between public servants
and the citizens we serve. It is true that this is only
achievable through a professional, dedicated and highly skilled public
service that is committed to serving the people of our country.
There were many other milestone Resolutions of this Council which laid
the foundation on which this Council has registered many
achievements. This calls for celebration as it is a testimony
that through social dialogue using the medium of collective bargaining
we can overcome even the most challenging situations.
Margaret Chase Smith is quoted as once said, “Public service must be
more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete
dedication to the people and to the nation.”
This brings me to the need to come to terms with the fact that, being a
public servant, is more than a job, but a calling and a
conviction. How many of us still subscribe to the principle that
Margaret so aptly put forward? How many of us put the people first
before our own individual interests? How many of us are truly
living the values of the “Public Service Charter”? These are some of
the questions that demand attention and soul-searching if needs
Chairperson, allow me to return and reflect on a very important
agreement signed in the PSCBC in 2013, the “Public Service
For Government, the delivery of improved services, in a dignified and
professional manner, is a priority. We also acknowledge that as
Government we need Public Servants that can stand up to the call and
help Government Departments to deliver these services to meet the
demands of citizens in an equitable and fair manner.
Can we rise to the challenge of treating citizens with dignity and
respect and meeting their demands equitably and fairly? Is it
impossible to ensure an effective, efficient and responsive public
service? I truly believe that this is possible. To this end, the
Public Service Charter must serve as a guiding tool for good
governance, democracy and sound working relations between the State,
public servants and the citizenry.
We can do this, by re-affirming our commitment to uphold the principles
and values of public administration; Upholding the constitutional
responsibility of the State to deliver services to citizenry; Noting
the continued efforts of the State and public servants in building a
developmental state; Acknowledge the service delivery challenges in the
We must equally, be concerned about the corruption in the public
service and its negative impact on the socio economic landscape;
Believing in the rich history of our democratic dispensation,
entrenching values and principles of human rights, social, economic and
political rights; and Motivated by the proven value of collaboration in
building a new South Africa.
Programme Director, Labour movements across the world, are, just like
policy makers, grappling with challenges of scale, never seen
before. Our own Labour movement as a significant player in the
international space, is very much familiar with the global challenges
we all face. We are all familiar with the new forms of work some
of which are off-shoots of dominant mega-drivers of change.
The internet of things, mechanisation of production methods, artificial
intelligence and the list goes on. We know that the complexities
that accompany these key drivers, made it necessary for the ILO to
establish a Global Commission on the Future of work, led by eminent
persons which include our very own, His Excellency President
The Commission is investigating every facet of the fourth industrial
revolution, the challenges and opportunities that it may
Whilst the scale of causalities cannot be quantified, likewise the
opportunities that it will bring, are not known at this stage, it is
better to prepare for all possible scenarios.
The recent announcements by many companies of possible job losses in
various sectors is a course for grave concern for all of us. To what
extent are these job losses as a result of new technology and the
uncertainty of the future of work, requires much deeper understanding
of the forces at play. We also need to understand the policy
choices at our disposal, some of which may be painful.
You will also know, that the 2009 ANC Election Manifesto, called for a
special focus on ensuring that occupational injuries and the
unemployment benefits scope be extended to cover and guarantee
retirement, disability and survivor benefits in the case of
occupational injuries and diseases. It also called on us to put in
place regulations to prohibit all known abusive practices in labour
The 2014 Manifesto on the other hand, called on us to investigate the
modality for the introduction of a national minimum wage as one of the
key mechanisms to reduce income inequality.
Let me not say much about the National Minimum Wage dispensation that
is on the verge of being signed into law, as a lot has already been
said about this milestone achievement for the vulnerable workers in
Let me rather underscore the point, that this achievement, is the first
ever national minimum wage in South Africa. Whilst it is by no
means a living wage, it remains a good foundation going forward.
Just imagine that over 6 million workers would have remained in wages
way below the proposed minimum wage, if it was not for this policy
Those of you who have been following the labour laws amendment process,
would also know that we introduced enabling alignments to the Labour
Relations Act, with a view to make it less difficult for the unions to
do their work. These include, but not limited to, redefining
“DISMISSAL” in Section 186, the extension of the period within which
the Minister must extend a collective agreement if the parties to the
agreement are only sufficiently representative in Section
32(5)(c). Section 32(2) which provides for improved
representativeness requirements for the extension of collective
You will know that Section 32(2) of the Act required the trade union
party to the agreement, to represent the majority of employees and in
addition, that the members of the employer organisations party to the
agreement, be required to employ the majority of employees within the
scope of the agreement.
The new provision only requires one or the other to meet this
requirement. I expected that workers will celebrate this achievement as
it provides the much-needed relief given the endless problems of
declining trade union representivity in the various Bargaining
Another important change relates to Sections 32(2)(c), (5)(a) and 49 of
the Act, which provide that the representativeness of bargaining
councils and their constituent parties, would henceforth be determined
annually by the Registrar and not each and every time a bargaining
council referred a collective agreement to the Minister for extension.
These are some of the changes that will relieve the parties of the
administrative burden of conducting membership verification every time
they apply to the Minister for extension.
The ANC Manifesto also called on us to take steps to strengthen
existing laws to ensure faster change in employment equity in all
workplaces, by enforcing an accelerated implementation of employment
The Employment Equity is there to enable us to achieve reasonable
progress towards eliminating unfair discrimination in the workplace,
and to achieve equitable representation of employees from designated
groups by means of affirmative action measures.
Before pointing out what government is doing to address poor compliance
with the employment equity, let me raise two grave concerns that bother
me a lot. Firstly, I get the impression when looking at the
quality of employment equity plans that get submitted to the Department
of labour annually, that workers seem have abdicated their
responsibility to scrutinise and sign-off on the plans before they are
It cannot be correct that more and more designated employers continue
to submit plans that are so weak, when workers on the shop-floor are
checking both the quality and the genuineness of these
Often designated employers fail to show evidence of Employment Equity
Committee nominations, and, that worker representatives indeed,
accepted the process followed to compile EE Plans.
At times, even evidence of the list of EE Committee members, minutes of
its meetings and Committee’s Constitution with a code of conduct signed
by all members, cannot be produced. Unless workers assume
meaningful responsibility to ensure that employment equity work is not
left to management and senior staff members with no contribution from
workers, transforming the workplace will remain a pipe-dream. I urge
you to play your role if we are to make this work.
The second concern relates to the recent report of the SA Human Rights
Commission of its investigation on the constitutionality of Affirmative
Action policy cum Employment Equity. I have observed that the
Commission has concluded, that both the country’s Affirmative Action
Policy and the Employment Equity Act were unconstitutional and not in
sync with International Conventions. The report makes various
recommendations on what needs to be done, including a recommendation to
amend the Employment Equity Act. The Commission gives government six
months to report back on steps taken to give effect to its
Clearly, this means that besides the general poor compliance with the
Employment Equity, we are now faced with a new challenge of a Chapter 9
institution casting doubts on the constitutionality of this
However, I am confident that since all our laws have to pass the
Constitutional Master, before they are signed into law, the conclusions
of the Commission will be deemed baseless.
Turning back to what the ANC government is doing to strengthen the
employment equity. The process to promulgate Section 53 which
will introduce a compliance with the Employment Equity as a
conditionality to do business with government and its
This will follow the same lines as the Letter of good standing in the
case of the Compensation Fund and Tax Clearance certificate with
respect to SARS. We are convinced that in addition to other
measures, which include slightly more severe fines for non-compliance,
we will begin to see a change in compliance patterns.
Programme Director, I am raising these few highlights, merely to
illustrate that our labour policies come a long way.
Let me congratulate you as the PSCBC on hosting this auspicious event.
We wish you all of the best with your engagements in this Indaba, let
us have a product that is workable and that will achieve the objectives
of your theme.
Let this Indaba signify hope for the nation and its people, as we live
the values of the Public Service Charter. Let this Indaba emerge with
the tool-box that is designed to ramp-up transformation that makes a
real difference in the lives of those we serve.
We all grew up understanding democracy as the government of the people,
by the people, for the people. Can this Indaba in addition to the
topics in the various commissions, pay some special attention to making
the last part of this doctrine a reality.
I thank You
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