'Concrete' proposals needed to address income inequality

NOVEMBER 4, 2014

Drawing on a strong tradition of social dialogue, the country must develop more concrete proposals on how to promote labour market stability and address income inequality, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“We need once again to engage in meaningful dialogue to confront these two particular challenges - labour instability and wage inequality. Effectively addressed, they will expand the capacity of our economy and improve the livelihoods of millions of our people.

“They will provide a platform for greater social dialogue on the broader issues of economic and social transformation that we need to confront,” said Deputy President Ramaphosa.

He said while labour instability and wage inequality were not the sum total of issues that need to be addressed in the economy or the labour relations environment, they were both urgent and critical.

Deputy President Ramaphosa was addressing the Labour Relation Indaba in Johannesburg on Tuesday which is expected to thrash out issues pertaining to the implementation of the national minimum wage, income inequality as well as the root causes of South Africa's prevailing labour relations environment.

The high-level gathering is being attended by delegates from government, business, labour and community organisations.

The Deputy President said there was broad agreement that collective bargaining in South Africa was under stress, with settlement agreements taking longer to conclude, strike action increasing, shop floor labour relations having weakened and, in some instances, confidence in trade unions having eroded. 

“Persistent inequality, weak economic performance, high unemployment and other socio-economic factors place pressure on the parties to collective bargaining and strain our labour relations regime. Labour market vulnerability and job insecurity add to these pressures. 

“There is a risk that our labour relations regime, which has been a positive force for change and which has attracted international praise, will be gravely weakened.”

He said given the challenges, the Indaba should result in an agreement on concrete interventions that will give rise to measurable improvement in labour relations stability.

Delegates should work towards agreement on policies and interventions to address the systemic challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. 

“The process that we will embark on today will undoubtedly shape our chances of improving long-term growth and investment in the economy.  Key to our chances of improving growth will be our ability, through social dialogue, to arrive at a shared vision, build trust and improve cooperation among all social partners.”

The Deputy President said the Indaba presented a great opportunity to initiate meaningful changes in the economy.

“We recognise that this Indaba is the start of a process that will require intensive and detailed interrogation of these issues. We do not pretend that it will be a smooth process.

“There are issues on which we differ, and there are areas that remain unchartered.”

Labour Minister Midred Oliphant said social dialogue would assist to address the challenges the country is faced with. – SAnews.gov.za