Employment & labour minister Thulas Nxesi. Picture: GCIS/JAIRUS MMUTLE
Employment & labour minister Thulas Nxesi. Picture: GCIS/JAIRUS MMUTLE

The government, which is tasked with formulating and implementing legislation that provides for sound labour relations, is transgressing the laws it is meant to uphold, labour federation Cosatu said on Monday.

Cosatu said the departments of public service & administration and employment & labour, together with the Treasury, are refusing to allow public servants paid parental leave and the extension of unemployment benefits to additional categories of employees.

This is in contravention of the Labour Laws Amendment Act and the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act.

The Labour Laws Amendment Act provides for 10 days’ parental leave to employees, while the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act extends the employees covered under the legislation to include learners undergoing learnership programmes and civil servants.

The federation said these departments have refused to allow public servants their legal rights to paid parental and adoption leave or to honour their obligations to contribute towards the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

“This is unacceptable and points to the reactionary and careless behaviour of this administration. The government must stop abusing the rights of workers and also testing their patience,” Cosatu said.

The labour federation spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said these laws must be implemented in full. He said it is worrying the government wants to pick and choose the laws it wants and ignore those it dislikes.

“This is a confirmation that government is leading the offensive against workers, and the workers are on their own. It’s a slippery slope ... because if the executive starts to ignore laws it does not like, then we are all in trouble,” said Pamla.

The Treasury referred questions to the employment & labour department, saying “they are best suited to respond”. 

The government is cutting  back on spending and announced in February its plans to slash the public sector wage bill by more than R160bn over the next three years. Its dire financial situation has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, with many arms of state struggling to collect revenue for services rendered.

The government has already failed to meet its contractual obligations to implement the last leg of a multiyear wage agreement it signed with public sector unions in 2018. The matter is now subject to court and arbitration processes.

Department of employment & labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane said the allegations are not true because the matter is still under discussion at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

But Pamla said: “It is disappointing to note that the department of employment & labour is spreading falsities and deceiving South Africans; these laws are not being discussed at Nedlac.”

He said Cosatu has repeatedly asked for discussion with the Treasury and the department of public service & administration but no meeting has been convened yet.





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