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Troubled birth predicted for new labour dispensation
By CIARAN RYAN
THE long-awaited Labour Relations Act comes into being tomorrow with thousands of businesses and workers still uncertain of its likely impact.
The Act is designed to foster a more conciliatory approach to dispute resolution which, it is hoped, will markedly reduce the level of disruptive labour action. It regulates industrial action, introduces workplace forums and creates vehicles for dispute resolution, including a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, a Labour Court, Labour Appeals Court and sector-wide bargaining councils, among other institutions designed to usher in a new era of labour peace.
"However, in both employer and labour circles, much scepticism exists regarding the capacity of the commission, the Labour Court and the Labour Department to administer the Act effectively," says the SA Collective Bargaining Survey.
Experts have identified other problem areas. They include:
Pending equity legislation, especially its affirmative action component, is likely to be slowed down due to the flight of white skills and the difficulty of replacing these in the short term by affirmative action.
The involuntary nature of the envisaged workplace forums.
Industrial councils are seen by small business as anti-competitive and destructive of jobs as they raise the costs of compliance.
Small business has representation on bargaining councils, but the definition of representivity has been interpreted as giving undue weight to the number of employees, rather than employers, in an industry.
A consequence of the Act is a switch to contract labour, beyond the reaches of the legislation.
¥ As a service to advertisers we outline the new criteria for recruitment staff in terms of the Act on Page 7.
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