Tanya Cohen, CEO of Business Unity SA. Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE
Tanya Cohen, CEO of Business Unity SA. Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE

Business Unity SA (Busa) is concerned about the provisions for exemption of employers from the national minimum wage provided for in the labour bills currently under consideration by Parliament’s labour committee.

Busa CEO Tanya Cohen made a presentation of the business organisation’s views on the National Minimum Wage Bill, the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill during public hearings on Tuesday.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill makes provisions for exemptions from the national minimum wage for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises that cannot afford to pay it. The exemption may be granted for up to 12 months.

"Business is most concerned about the functionality of the exemption system as a mechanism to ensure that those businesses that genuinely are unable to afford the national minimum wage are provided with the opportunity to apply for exemption. This is particularly pertinent for start-ups [and] small and medium[-sized] enterprises," Cohen said.

"Business is moreover concerned that the exemption system should provide relatively easier pathways for exemption for employer organisations and parties to bargaining council agreements. This will strengthen organisations of collective bargaining, thereby indirectly incentivising collective bargaining as required by the constitutional right to collectively bargain."

Cohen said business was in favour of a differentiated process of exemptions where there were related bargaining council agreements. Such a process would have to be supported by the trade union and employer parties to the agreement.

Busa also emphasised the importance for the institutions that would be required for the implementation of the proposed amendments to be sufficiently resourced, in particular the inspectorate of the Department of Labour, the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the National Minimum Wage Commission.

"Significant capacity building, awareness raising and communication is required to ensure that the labour law amendments are fully and effectively implemented," Cohen said.

She said the package of labour law amendments would enhance and enrich the constitutional right to fair labour practices and would go a long way towards improved workplace relations, higher productivity and competitiveness of business, regardless of size or sector.