Tuesday, 04 November 2014 18:30

Government should not be dragged into labour issues

Government involvement in operational matters relating to industrial relations is undesirable, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Friday.

Speaking at the KwaZulu-Natal economic summit, she said this was the reason why the government created these institutions.

"The unwarranted intervention by government carries the real danger of undermining the very institutions it created in the first place."

She further said that using the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) platform to engage on policy matters and other pressing socio-economic problems, was necessary.

"Nedlac remains one of the platforms through which government, labour, business and community organisations seek to co-operate, through problem-solving and negotiation, on economic, labour and development issues, and related challenges facing the country."

She said the institutionalised social dialogue under the auspices of Nedlac remained an important and indispensable tool for transparency and participation in policy formulation.

Nedlac was launched in 1995. It aims to allow inclusive and transparent decision-making about labour issues.

She said Nedlac remained a contested terrain and it would be expected that from time to time there would be tensions.

"Whilst some of the high expectations and enthusiasm that surrounded the launch of Nedlac on February 18, 1995, have not been met, its achievements to date have been encouraging, albeit with some setbacks."

Oliphant said it was disappointing that workers downed tools even when the gap between their demand and the employer offer was small.

"I have observed with a degree of disappointment that in most strikes around collective bargaining issues, workers down tools when the gap between what the employers are offering and their demand is so minute that going on strike for weeks on end does not make social and economic sense," she said.

"Imagine workers going out on strike because the employer is offering eight percent but, are quite happy to come back after two weeks of strike shouting victory when the employer improves the offer by a meagre .05 percent."