Millions of people in South Africa and across the globe will celebrate Worker’s Day on 1 May. All of the major trade unions and federations in South Africa have celebrations planned to mark the international day.
Cosatu has events planned throughout the country, while rival Saftu will be holding its main event in Bloemfontein.
Worker’s Day, Labour Day or May Day as it’s often called internationally has long been a symbol of the struggle faced by ordinary labourers across the globe. In 1884 the United States and Canada resolved that a full day’s work consisted of eight hours.
This was brought into effect on 1 May 1886 and has been celebrated ever since.
In South Africa the weeks leading up to Worker’s Day has seen unions flex their muscles, a nationwide bus strike has led to chaos for commuters, Saftu led a day-long protest over changes to the labour law and striking health workers in North West brought the provincial health system to its knees.
Briefly.co.za looks at five of the biggest changes to the South African labour landscape since 1 May 2017.
1. President Cyril Ramaphosa takes over from Jacob Zuma
Former president Jacob Zuma was infamously heckled at a Cosatu rally last year and was forced to leave the stage. Zuma was universally disliked by unions.
President Ramaphosa is seen as kinder to worker’s rights, having been the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in his early career. Ramaphosa has faced serious resistance from unions about the introduction of the new national minimum wage but generally, he still enjoys the support of unions and labour councils.
2. The national minimum wage
South Africa’s first ever legislated national minimum wage was originally scheduled to be introduced on 1 May 2018, but due to Parliamentary processes and further consultation has been delayed.
The deal was personally negotiated by Ramaphosa and will see workers earn a minimum of R20 per hour being or around R3 500 per month.
Saftu has slammed the minimum wage as slave wages, but the other unions have said it is a step in the right direction and will benefit 40% of general workers.
3. Changes to the labour relations Act
Saftu claims changes to the Act will make it difficult for workers to embark on strike action. The proposed amendment will force unions to hold secret ballots before embarking on strike action.
The other major change is the introduction of an advisory arbitration panel which would allow the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to intervene in strikes which are deemed as violent or damaging to the economy.
4. Paternity leave could be a reality in the near future
The UIF Amendment Act signed into law by Jacob Zuma had to undergo the entire Parliamentary process again after a typing error was discovered.
The amendments provide for 10 days of paternity leave for a father or same-gender parent not covered by maternity leave. There is currently no provision for paternity leave and fathers/non-birth giving mothers have had to make do with the three days of annual family responsibility leave when their children were born.
The UIF amendment bill also provides 10 weeks of adoption leave for one parent when adopting a child under two years old. The other parent will qualify for 10 days of parental leave.
Other changes include an increase in UIF benefits from 238 to 365 days and a hike in maternity leave benefits to 66%.
5. Job losses
The last year has been volatile for the job market, the mining sector, in particular, has been hit hard. More than 7000 jobs were cut by Sibanye-Stillwater. The platinum industry in particular looks set for massive job losses in the coming months.
The official unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2017 was 26.7%.
Ramaphosa has promised to address the stubbornly high unemployment rate as a matter of priority.
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