Ricochet News

Frank discussions drive solutions to SA’s Labour Market challenges

BY NATALIE SINGER, SENIOR CONSULTANT - APRIL 21, 2017
Frank discussions drive solutions to SA’s Labour Market challenges

The second annual employment conference hosted by Global Business Solutions (GBS) at Emperor’s Palace on Thursday was an enormous success with feedback from the more than 120 delegates bearing testament to the relevance of the programme, quality of the speakers and the frank, pragmatic discussions held on the most pressing issues facing employers today.

Following the success of the inaugural event held last year, the GBS team upped the ante with a speaker line-up that included Advocate Anton Myburgh SC, NUMSA’s general secretary Irvin Jim, CCMA Director Cameron Marojane and Tabea Kabinde Employment Equity Commission Chair. Justice Malala kicked off the day with an entertaining and educational look at the state of South Africa and the political signals we should be watching for in our planning and future decision-making.

Topics tackled ranged from the challenges with transformation, realities of dispute resolution, impacts of recent labour amendments and national minimum wage implementation, the risks posed by violence in strikes, and the state of collective bargaining.

Skills development the key to real Transformation

During the morning’s panel, EE Chair Tabea Kabinde, fellow commissioner and GBS Managing Director Thembi Chagonda, and leadership development specialist Darren Graham of Joint Prosperity, unpacked the barriers to effective Employment Equity.

The continued belief that “buying in” skill is the answer is the primary cause of organisations failing to achieve their EE goals, particularly at senior management level. Much is related to the failure to review job profiles that have simply had “AA” or “EE” slapped on to them without consideration of the practicalities and realities of access to education and the workplace for PDI candidates.

The panellists all supported the notion that true transformation comes through the effective utilisation of structured, consistent and disciplined skills development initiatives focused on PDI employees, in driving strategic career pathing, succession planning and leadership development.

Darren Graham shared some excellent insights into the paradigm shift required during recruitment including the need to look at assessing the potential and personalities of the candidates in question, rather than their match to the skills and experience expected. Skills and experience can be readily (and relatively easily) achieved, providing the individual being developed has the necessary foundations.

Strategic Transformation

Too few organisations are leveraging the Transformation opportunities provided under the amended Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment scorecards, the tax incentives like ETI and skills development funding.

Based on her experiences assisting organisations, Thembi Chagonda, shared examples of how a more strategic focus on transformation at a big picture level translates into improved EE goal setting and target attainment. She encouraged delegates to connect the dots by choosing to access opportunity and leverage the various elements instead of simply checking boxes in an attempt to comply.

In conclusion Tabea Kabinde reminded employers present that transformation is not just a paper exercise but something that should involve the destruction of stereotypes and a commitment to reviewing status quo that doesn’t speak to the diverse and inclusive work places the Employment Equity Commission is striving for.

Time to admit legislators made a mistake?

Professor Haroon Bhorat shared the research and key findings around National Minimum Wage, amendments to LRA s198 limiting flexibility of labour and use of Temporary Employment Services (TES) and the Employment Tax Incentive.

The conclusions were both worrisome and encouraging. Sadly, the evidence-led research ahead of negotiations around the National Minimum Wage, was ignored in the decision to settle on R3500 per month. And whilst the moral debate around the challenge of living on such a low base cannot be questioned, the reality of the economic impact this places on business and the resulting job losses cannot be ignored.

Conservative estimate of the job losses from the DPRU research indicates that even at R3000 per month, as many as 700 000 jobs will be lost when the new minimum is introduced. Sadly, unless the process is halted, unlikely given the current political volatility, only time will tell what the real damage to jobs, especially those occupied by vulnerable workers, will be.

On the plus side, the research proves that initiatives such as the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI), often referred to as the Wage subsidy, has had a positive impact on workforce employment absorption of particularly under 20 year-olds. The research further dispelled myths that the ETI displaced older workers, disproportionately favoured industries like TES and resulted in lower wages.

SA workplaces categorised by conflict

The increased in the number of disputes being lodged at the CCMA and other dispute resolution forums is an indicator that effective conflict management is severely lacking within organisations. Rather than focusing on the need to expand capacity of these forums to manage the escalating workloads, CCMA Director Cameron Marojane says organisations should be building internal mechanisms that avoid, where possible, dispute and focus on constructive problem solving and conflict management.

The theme was later explored during the presentation by Advocate Anton Myburgh SC when he covered the rise in violence during strikes and the challenges being faced by stakeholders in maintaining a robust collective bargaining environment within a legal framework that balances the rights of both employers and employees.

NUMSA’s General Secretary Irvin Jim concurred, stating that the violence seen in strikes is not endorsed by the trade union but is, in his opinion, a result of the violent history we come from and the adversarial stance adopted by employers.

In an address that pulled no punches, Irvin Jim tackled the current political turmoil, focusing on the real issues at hand: the challenges felt daily by the masses of unemployed individuals and the working poor who are struggling to keep both their families and their extended families going on wages that cannot meet the rising cost of living.

He reiterated that the trade union, and the workers they represent, are not averse to negotiating lower settlements, given the current economic realities, providing that employers play open cards and are willing to reward increases in productivity with a share in the profits that ensue.

In a robust discussion on the State of Collective Bargaining at the conclusion of the programme, panellists Advocate Anton Myburgh, Irvin Jim and Jonathan Goldberg reaffirmed that the current structures of collective bargaining and majoritarianism are likely to remain in place but that the process of wage negotiation should change to one that is more collaborative where employers begin the negotiation process at a realistic point, enabling trade unions to negotiate more positively thereby eliminating the chances of strike action. 

5 Key Take-Aways

In keeping with GBS’ belief in developing pragmatic solutions, the key take-aways from today’s exceptional event were:

  1. Take a more strategic approach to Transformation leveraging opportunities presented by BBBEE, Employment Equity and Skills Development;
  2. Build your own talent rather than buying it in by creating structured development programmes that drive succession planning, leadership development and career pathing for especially Designated Groups;
  3. Review your internal dispute resolution mechanisms, aiming to mitigate conflicts and encourage solutions-orientation;
  4. Shift your thinking from adversarial to collaborative during wage negotiations, focusing on finding win-win opportunities; and
  5. Recognise, and act on, the role that business can play in creating an environment conducive to inclusive growth and job creation

If you’re interested in learning more about this event, taking place again next year, or how to leverage the opportunities presented above, please get in touch with us. Visit our website www.globalbusiness.co.za