Workers’ interests: Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali says amendments to sections of the Labour Relations Act are necessary because companies retrench workers to protect profits. File picture: SUPPLIED

A number of SA’s labour laws are set to come under scrutiny at Cosatu’s national congress in September, with the union federation pushing for amendments to some sections of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

Cosatu wants section 189 of the LRA, which stipulates the procedures for retrenchments, to be strengthened to make it harder for employers to let go of workers. In an interview with Business Day last week, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the law allows companies to retrench workers to "protect profits".

The proposed changes form part of Cosatu’s fight-back plan against mass retrenchments and the government’s lack of action on dealing with unemployment.


The federation is also setting the tone for a mass action plan that will culminate in a strike to force the government to impose a moratorium on all retrenchments until the jobs summit.

Section 77 of the LRA, which regulates protests to promote or defend the socioeconomic interests of workers, makes it hard for unions to embark on strikes, according to submissions made by Cosatu affiliates ahead of the national congress.

Ntshalintshali said the process of applying for permission to strike to the National Economic Development and Labour Council, as required by the law, needs to be reviewed.

"The process of getting the certificate to protest is very cumbersome," he said.

"Even when you get it you must still wait for 15 days’ notice ... [Cosatu unions] think it should make it easier for unions to protest," Ntshalintshali said.

"If we take a decision to protest tomorrow, we should be able to give a notice before you go to protest. That’s also one of the problems," he said.

Cosatu’s focus on the labour laws coincides with parliament’s conclusion of the amendments to the LRA and Basic Conditions of Employment Act, with the introduction of a code of good practice that seeks to prevent prolonged strikes that harm the economy.

The federation wants the laws governing permissions for secondary strikes to be made more flexible. Its resolutions are likely to face opposition from the business community, which has been calling on the government to deal with what it considers to be overly rigid labour laws that are stifling the labour market’s potential for growth.

"There are some sections that are coming quite clearly from workers, those need to be resolved differently.

"We want to revisit the labour law amendments. There might be others; the resolutions are still coming [from affiliates]," Ntshalintshali said.

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