SA’s 10.23 million jobless must stand together against Goliath

Xolile Mpini, Vuyo Mruba and Denki Selani

Sat Aug 01 2020 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Since the national minimum wage was gazetted, more doors have been shut in the faces of the unemployed.

As we predicted in our comment on the national minimum wage, the unemployed number has burst through the 10 million barrier to settle at 10.226 million (38.5% of the labour force).

This is the number attached to the expanded definition of unemployment, which includes those who have given up looking for a job. What did the government expect when it increased the minimum wage and made it national?

The small businesses in the small towns and villages can’t be expected to pay the same wages as the cities. Could the government not see what was as clear as daylight to a group of the unemployed?

But all is not lost. If the government will take advice, the unemployment problem can be solved.

The Langeberg Unemployed Forum has discovered that there is a solution to the unemployment problem in South Africa. All we need is for the government and Parliament to listen to us.

Unemployment is caused by the labour laws that benefit the employed and disrespect the constitutional rights of the unemployed.

Giving back to the unemployed their rights to make their own decisions about their working lives will solve the problem. The solution is to put decisions about our jobs in our hands. Create an exemption certificate in the law that we can apply for, that exempts us from the labour laws. It must give us the freedom to contract with any employer of our choice.

Those who don’t want to be exempted need not apply. The certificate mus allow us to enter into any agreement with any employer, at any wage and on any conditions that we are prepared to accept. Small businesses, individuals and the unemployed will then demonstrate how freedom in the workplace can transform a country.

The Langeberg Unemployed Forum is taking on a job-destroying Goliath for the sake of all the unemployed people of South Africa.

Goliath consists of legislation and regulations adopted by Parliament that are suffocating the unemployed and preventing us from getting jobs. We are calling on all jobless people to sand together to demand that Parliament mus remove the barriers that cause us to be without jobs.

The barriers that prevent us from getting jobs are laws and regulations that protect and support the employed but at the same time cause us to have no jobs and cause the “no jobs” signs to go up outside factories and other businesses.

These businesses don’t want to talk to anyone who has been unemployed for a long time, is inexperienced, is old, or suffers from any form of handicap.

Employers can’t take people on trial to see if they can do the job or even to see if they will get along with the rest of the staff. Job seekers can’t offer to work for a low wage to get a foot on the jobs ladder.

The laws look as if they are only meant to make employers behave better: pay higher wages, give workers benefits, and increase their job security by sopping them from getting fired.

To achieve this, the laws impose harsh penalties on employers who do something that is not strictly according to the labour laws.

Because of the strict laws the employers have become very careful about hiring staff. Large firms have labour law specialists managing staff issues. These specialists play it safe. They do background checks on job applicants and will only hire people with clear records and references from previous employers.

Employers are not nasty people; they are being careful. They are careful because if they accidentally or deliberately fail to obey the labour laws they can find themselves being charged in the CCMA for breaking the law. If we don’t understand the position of businesses, especially small businesses, we will never be able to solve this problem.

In our submission on the national minimum wage, we and others pleaded with the members of the labour portfolio committee not to agree to it. Our argument was simple. If we can’t even get a job when the wage is R2000, who will employ us at R3500? We also told them that wages in the cities are higher than wages in the rural areas, so applying the minimum wage nationally guarantees more unemployment in the rural areas.

This is not the way to treat poor employers and their staff, when the employers are paying what they can afford, and it is the best job option the staff can find. What we have learnt is that the government and the
members of Parliament either do not understand what is happening in the job market or they do not care about the small businesses and the unemployed.

How else can anyone explain one law after another being passed that makes matters worse for everybody at the bottom end of the job market.

• Xolile Mpini, Vuyo Mruba and Denki Selani are members of the Langeberg
Unemployed Forum