1 May 2014

South Africa: Many Laid Down Their Lives for Workers' Day

The importance of Worker's Day cannot be forgotten as many workers laid down their lives for the privileges workers now enjoy, says Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.

"To be able to celebrate May Day was one of the rights that we fought for in this country. It was one of the rights that many workers laid their lives on the line for. And indeed, many of our workers were killed for the privilege that we now enjoy and sometimes take for granted," said the minister on Wednesday.

Minister Oliphant was speaking at the Worker's Parliament held in Mpumalanga ahead of the country commemorating Worker's Day on Thursday.

The minister reflected on the labour landscape in the past 20 years of South Africa's democracy.

"Twenty years ago, there were at least 53 pieces of legislation governing the labour regime. These pieces of legislation differed from province to province, from homeland to homeland, from Bantustan to Bantustan.

"In their place, we have put together four essential pieces of legislation, which are: Labour Relations, Basic Condition of Employment, Employment Equity and the Employment Services Acts," she said.

The new Employment Services Act, a new piece of legislation, will ensure that more people get opportunities for work.

The minister appealed to workers and their representatives to play a much more active role in ensuring their own safety.

Over the years, the department has seen that workers do not really play a pivotal role in their own safety.

"They leave everything to the company and sometimes companies cut corners. The workers should approach and report to inspectors that which makes them uncomfortable or feel unsafe. We cannot continue having workplaces becoming death places," she said.

The minister also spoke out against companies that do not comply with labour laws. "This is not what we want. We want business to understand that to comply with the law is good business," she said.

South Africa, she said, has had a painful history whereby a large numbers of citizens were treated as if they did not exist.

"Their rights were trampled upon. They were used as fodder to feed the apartheid economic machinery. The dawn of the new era meant we needed to ensure all we could to push back the frontiers of slavery that our people had been reduced to.

"We decided that never again will this country be a place where rights were accorded according to colour," said Minister Oliphant.

- SAnews.gov.za

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