Columns 1.4.2014 10:00 am

Law keeps the poor out of work

Andrew Kenny.

Andrew Kenny.

By law, poor people are not allowed to get jobs in South Africa.

Section 32 of our Labour Relations Act (LRA) makes it clear that only rich people may join the formal economy.

This wicked law was drawn up by the fat cats – by rich and powerful politicians, trade union bosses and corporate captains.

Section 32 says that if, in the bargaining council of a sector of the economy (clothing, mining, etc) a group of rich employers makes a wage deal with rich employees, then all poor companies in this sector are forced to pay the same wages, even though they had no part in the bargaining and cannot afford to pay them.

Suppose Mr Rockefeller, a rich employer in a thriving suburb, agrees to pay Mr Botha, a rich worker, a certain high wage.

Then Mr Sisulu, a poor employer in a deprived township, must pay the same wage to Mr Shezi, a poor worker.

If he can’t afford it, he must shut down his factory and Mr Shezi must be thrown onto the scrap heap of unemployment.

Consider a poor woman, Mrs Maseko. She is looking for a job in a sector where the minimum wage is R2 000 a month.

Here are her options: she may starve to death, and there will be no outrage about that; she may comb the rubbish dumps to find R100 worth of scraps every month – no outrage; or she may claim a grant of R280 a month if she has a child – no outrage.

But she may not accept a job of R1 900 a month. She desperately wants this job. It is much better than all her alternatives. But she is not allowed to take it.

If she does so, the rich trade union leaders will howl with outrage and shout “exploitation!” at her employer.

A Sunday paper showed the job policies of the political parties contesting the election in May.

None of them promised to do the one thing that is guaranteed to reduce unemployment: scrap the job-destroying labour laws (although I was pleased to see that the DA, in one of its documents, does propose scrapping Section 32).

Only one institution in SA is taking legal action against the iniquitous labour laws. This is the Free Market Foundation (FMF), which is seeking to make Section 32 unconstitutional.

For the sake of our jobless, let us hope the FMF is successful.

 

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