Employment and Labour Minister, TW Nxesi said wholesale deregulation of the labour market is a non-starter, a shop steward and union representative forum was told on Thursday.
Nxesi said workers' struggles over decades for decent work will not be overturned.
"But, we do encourage engagement with business to see where red tape can be removed and bureaucracy eliminated - easing the cost of doing business. That is in our interests. And I would urge this conference to also give some thought to this matter".
The Minister was delivering a keynote address to the opening of the 3rd Annual Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) Shop Stewards and Union Officials Conference at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand today (12 September). The conference ends tomorrow.
Nxesi said despite the expanded mandate of the Department to that of employment and labour, the department will continue to champion decent working conditions and healthy industrial relations. He emphasised the essential role played by the Department - to create a stable labour market which in turn is conducive to investment, growth and employment.
The Minister said the additional mandate of the Department was to implement active labour market policies with the objectives of leveraging the resources at its disposal to preserve and create jobs, as well as to promote appropriate training and re-training which meets the skills demanded by the labour market.
Expanding on the decent work subject the Minister announced that National Minimum Wage Commission was conducting a research into the impact of the first six months of the implementation of the NMW. The investigation will look not only on the impact of employment, but also on poverty and inequality. He said the outcome of the research will reignite a national debate on the minimum wage - but a debate based on evidence.
Nxesi said the department was under no illusion that the NMW of R20 will end poverty in SA.
"But I do believe that it is important to establish the principle of minimum standards as part of our struggle for decent work," he said.
The NMW was implemented at the beginning of the year. It is the base which every worker should be paid per hour.
The Minister commended the CCMA for its outreach work. He said that: "in the advancement of social justice and stability within the labour market, shop stewards and union officials have to be knowledgeable and well-versed in CCMA jurisdiction and processes for effective dispute resolution
"The CCMA has made the point that shop stewards and union officials are our eyes and ears on the ground. They are the first point of contact for any distressed employee seeking relief," he said citing issues such as NMW, health and safety, accessing Compensation Fund for work-related injuries and diseases, and accessing the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
He emphasised that the Department has an inspection and enforcement branch, "but it cannot be present in every workplace". He warned of inspectors engaged in unbecoming behaviour, saying the Department would act.
Turning to the changing nature of work, Nxesi said this was not a static entity, but constantly evolving at an increasingly rapid rate, "digitalisation, automation, artificial intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution will affect us all - some jobs will go; new jobs and skills - and training and retraining - will be required".
He said technological change cannot be prevented. He warned that the change had the potential to be very disruptive in economic and societal terms. The process will need to be managed through all social partners' involvement, he said.
Issued by: Department of Employment and Labour