Nedlac social partners from the Trade and Industry Chamber met with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies to discuss various aspects of trade and industrial policy – including Ipap, Apap, beneficiation and trade challenges.
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION
Deputy President Rampahosa, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Directors General, Leaders of Organised Labour , Organised Business and the Community, members of the diplomatic corps , guests and media who have joined , dear Friends and Compatriots.
NO PART FREEDOM
The successful unfolding of our 5th fifth democratic elections earlier this year is testament to how far we have come in entrenching our hard won political freedom. But as we celebrate 20 years of our democracy it is necessary that we take stock of the state of our society and especially of the socio-economic challenges that threaten our social cohesion and may eventually even threaten our hard won democratic gains. For as Tata Madiba reminded us – there is no part freedom.
The past year has been another very difficult one for South – Africa. It has also been another difficult year for social dialogue in general and Nedlac in particular. There is therefore a huge responsibility on us as social partners to recognise that we can no longer continue with a business as usual approach.
REVIEW OF 2013-14 PERFORMANCE
However in reviewing our activities for the past year it is important to recognise that we have also made some progress, especially from an internal perspective. In terms of our core operations, ie dealing with policy and legislative proposal we are continuing to make good progress in improving the overall performance as measured in our Annual Performance Plan. This is partly due to our efforts to beef up the secretariat, accompanied by the introduction of a performance management system. But it also points to a greater adherence to the Nedlac protocol by the chamber members and convenors. As shown by the following slide our Year on year our performance against our APP objectives has improved significantly –
GRAPH OF YEAR ON YEAR COMPARISON AND ARISING
It is important to note that on the legislative and policy front, the second half of 2013 was particularly busy as government sought to beat the deadlines for processing legislation prior to the 2014 elections. This resulted in a spurt of Nedlac engagements on various pieces of legislation which were not originally scheduled in our Annual Performance Plan.
HIGHLIGHTS OF LEGISLATION
Despite the heavy demands that this placed on our chambers and our resources, including the demands on social partners, a number of Nedlac reports on key pieces of legislation were finalised. These include the Public Administration Management Bill, Expropriation Bill, and the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill.
We are pleased to report that the internal Governance of the entity has continued to improve. We have again achieved an unqualified audit. During the past year we have established an functioning SCM unit to ensure stricter compliance to the PFMA and Treasury requirements. However more work still needs done to improve overall governance. This is especially in true in terms of ensuring appropriate delegation of authority and to ensure that constituency interests and dynamics don’t unduly impact on the administration and fiduciary obligations of the entity.
We also need to reconsider the role and functioning of the Executive Council to ensure high level representation form all constituencies and ways to enhance strategic engagement on the key socio-economic challenges facing our nation.
The effective function of social dialogue is critically dependent on the commitment of all its social partners. In this regard the commitment of government to the Nedlac Act and Protocol is particularly crucial. In this regard a meeting was held earlier in the year with former Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, in his capacity as leader of Government Business to discuss concerns that some key pieces of legislation were not tabled for consideration as is required in terms of the Nedlac Act and protocols.
This meeting also explored ways to improve coordination and cooperation between Nedlac and the Leader of Government Business. This includes ensuring improved coordination and tracking of the legislative Programme, as well as developing a protocol to strengthen the link between Nedlac and parliament.
We recently had a very encouraging introductory meeting with Deputy President Ramaphosa as the new Leader of Government Business and we look forward to strong relationship with his office..
THE Socio- Economic Situation – Challenges ahead
In his February 2014 State of the Nation address, President Zuma, emphasised the need to accelerate growth and tackle the triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty. He also highlighted the importance of social dialogue and recognised the role of Nedlac, while calling on organised Business and Labour in particular to work together to bring about stability, especially in the mining industry.
President Zuma has again emphasised the importance of Social Dialogue in his June 2014 state of the nation address. President Zuma specifically called on social partners to work together to accelerate inclusive growth. This has inspired our theme for the summit – Working together to accelerate inclusive growth.
From Polarisation to Partnership
We also welcome the President’s call for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to head a special process under the ambit of NEDLAC to tackle the challenges in our labour relations environment and in particular to address the issue of wage inequality. This process is now underway and will receive priority attention over the next few months.
In this regard it seems apparent that many of our recent upheavals in our labour relations environment have less to do with the specific design of laws or institutions and more to do with the capacity, conduct and commitment of the social actors involved.
This leads to a more intractable challenge for the future of social dialogue, tripartism and collective bargaining. It calls for strong leadership and a paradigm shift away from the culture of adversarial and positional bargaining and a greater focus on consensus seeking, building relationships of trust and networks of collaboration rather than just legislative intervention.
A central challenge for South Africa in the current era is how to deepen democracy while accelerating economic development and maintain social stability in a competitive and uncertain global environment.
It is thus encouraging to note, as is evidenced in the State of the Nation address that government acknowledges that we need a balanced approach in addressing the complexities in our labour relations environment. In the short to medium term our growth prospects are constrained by global conditions and domestic factors including low investment and savings, weak domestic demand, low business confidence, energy constraints and challenges in our labour market. We need to have urgent conversations about how to tackle these growth constraints but these conversations must be guided by a willingness to resist quick fix and knee jerk solutions.
Vision Leadership and Common Purpose
Nedlac’s Founding Declaration envisages a pivotal role for social dialogue in promoting a shared vision and cooperation to enhance growth, equity and participation. Yet despite the National Development Plan, the implementation of a shared vision and social cooperation to improve our socio-economic prospects remains elusive.
This is not a new problem in fact in 1999 the then Director Jayendra Naidoo wrote in this annual report that that “…Nedlac has been weak in building a national vision between the constituencies or an agreement on overall policy direction”. The key question is why??
BUT WE MUST BE REALISTIC AND PRAGMATIC
In the current context, the prospects for cooperative approaches to addressing our socio-economic challenges appear slim as our discourse remains highly polarised and ideological; the turmoil in the mining industry and other sectors as well the spread of community based conflicts are unlikely to abate in the short term; Inter-union rivalry, including the challenges within the business constituency have all weakened the prospects for effective national level tripartite engagements.
This does not mean that we must abandon Nedlac as a forum for national level social dialogue but rather that each and every constituency must urgently take responsibility and show leadership commitment to build trust and alter the mode of engagement to encourage partnership in building our common national interest.
In the words of Madiba – After climbing a great hill one only finds that there are more hills to climb.
We wish to thank the overall convenors and chamber convenors for their support and working hard to ensure adherence to the Nedlac Protocols. Your hard work and dedication has helped to improve our overall performance as well as on the time frames for consideration of all policy and legislative engagements. I wish to thank my colleagues in the CCMA, ILO, the Presidency, Office of the Deputy President and other departments. My friends and comrades in the business community, labour movement and community. A special thanks to the team at Nedlac – I know the hard work and effort that you put in day after day- I know that it is you love for this country that keeps you going even as you work as you don’t get much gratitude for what you do. But from me and on behalf of all our social partners I say Siyabonga Khakula! Finally thanks to my family for sustaining me in every way.
Additional Notes= Food for thought
1. Nedlac Act , and founding declaration is premised on the commitment of social partners to seek consensus and cooperate on ways to achieve economic prosperity, social equity and stability. However, over the past few years the effectiveness of existing forms of social dialogue in South Africa and Nedlac in particular has come under increased scrutiny. This has especially been the case following the 2008 global crisis and the turbulence in the South African Labour Market post Marikana.
2. While all social partners readily agree that there is an urgent need to accelerate growth and reduce unemployment, inequality and poverty in South Africa, there is very little consensus on how this may be achieved collectively and how to strengthen the implementation and monitoring aspect of existing policies. The rising tensions within the biggest labour federation Cosatu, as well as the growing rivalry spurred by emerging unions like AMCU are a cause for major concern. In addition coherence of BUSA as a apex body to lead the wider Business Community has also weakened. This combined with challenges to coordinate policy in Governments do no bode well for endeavours to build collaborative social partnerships to tackle our socio-economic difficulties in the short term.
3. The tragic events at Marikana over a year ago, the recent turbulence in the labour market and the rising tide of community based protest actions point to the need for urgency in addressing the deep structural challenges in the South African socio-economic landscape. In this environment it is incumbent on all social partners to critically examine their role and commitment to the founding principles of Nedlac. It is also necessary that we are open to asking ourselves difficult questions and that we avoid using the institution in a politically expedient way.
4. Notwithstanding some of the criticisms of Nedlac, there is no doubt that the institution has a critical role to play. In this regard the Webster report provides a useful basis for such critical examination and repositioning Nedlac and revitalising social dialogue in South Africa.
5. All social partners need to recommit themselves to the founding principles of NEDLAC as the apex forum for national social dialogue and to strengthen their participation. While recognising that NEDLAC is not the only forum for engagement, we should ensure greater coordination across all platforms of engagement.
6. The NDP and the ANC Manifesto sets the framework for our policy priorities and agenda for accelerating inclusive growth over the next term of Government . We recognise that there is concern from organised labour but we must not shy away from engagement on areas of disagreement while working together on areas where we agree. In the short to medium term our growth prospects are constrained by global conditions and domestic factors including low investment and savings, weak domestic demand, low business confidence, energy constraints and challenges in our labour market. We need to have urgent conversations about how to tackle these domestic constraints but this conversation must be guided by a willingness to resist quick fix and knee jerk solutions.
7. While the challenges in our labour market are significant We should guard against a simplistic response that blames our economic performance primarily on the labour market. We have thus begun a process to under the auspices of NEDLAC to address the challenges in our labour market in a more comprehensive way. Together we need to find sustainable solutions to reducing labour conflict and promoting cooperation. Transforming the SA world is less about changing laws and regulations but more about the behaviour and interaction of the key actors . In this regard we need to find urgent ways to reduce wage-inequality and deal with the sense of exclusion that still pervades the experiences of the majority of south African workers.
8. We urgently need to work together to accelerate inclusive growth : This requires strong social partnership and a unity of purpose and vision. We need a common vision and commitment from all stakeholders to put the national interests first. Presently cooperation and trust is low and the blame game is the order of the day. To build trust and cooperation will require leadership commitment and willingness to behave differently from all our social partners. The toughest conversations are the ones in our own constituencies, as we need a new mindset from all who sit around the table. All constituencies must demonstrate a willingness to make concessions and put the national interest first. There is also a responsibility on Government to take the lead and demonstrate responsiveness and accountability- this means ensuring Policy coherence , coordination, delivery y and dealing with corruption.