The Portfolio Committee on Labour said it was disappointed that members of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) disrupted a committee meeting meant to discuss the National Minimum Wage Bill on Wednesday.
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, the committee chairperson Sharome van Schalkwyk described the incident as unfortunate and said it did not speak to how South Africans resolved differences of opinions.
“The committee will not be distracted and derailed in trying to improve the conditions many of our poor working South Africans find themselves in. The processes on the National Minimum Wage are unfolding, and this drastic and chaotic stance is not warranted,” said Van Schalkwyk.
“Parliament is a place for persuasion and engagement, hence the committee has adopted the approach of listening to all stakeholders even after the deadline of its processes regarding oral submissions,” she said.
She explained that on Wednesday a handful of activists donning Saftu regalia disrupted the committee’s meeting which sought to deliberate on the corrected version of the Bill.
Van Schalkwyk said the committee accepted that activists had a right to protest, but that right should not seek to interfere with the work of Parliament, and the rights of other persons.
“There will still be an opportunity to engage with the Bill during the National Council of Provinces’ processes and therefore members should be allowed to do their job without hindrance,” she said.
Saftu Provincial Secretary Andre Adams released a statement refuting Parliament’s version of events.
“About 15 Saftu leaders were forcefully evicted from the Labour Portfolio Committee meeting held today at Parliament. The committee was convened to ratify the proposed amendments to the labour laws as well as the minimum wage legislation,” said Adams.
He said the union sent an urgent communication to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on Tuesday and the union highlighted the that the redrafted Bill not only totally ignored Saftu’s presentation, but actually went further than that to undermine the spirit and the latter of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) agreement.
“We further highlighted that the Bills as redrafted, and if they are to be rubber stamped by the Portfolio Committee, will represent an insult to, and a serious breach of the whole process of public hearings, which is such important platform for consultations and public engagement and rubber-stamping the work of the Department of Labour will make a farce of this process.”
Adams said Saftu appealed to the chairperson and the members of the committee not to vote on the department of labour’s redrafted bills.
“We requested that the bills be referred back to Nedlac, which must allow presentation by all those currently excluded but which will be affected directly by these Bills.”
Adams said the union had not received a response from the communiqué.
“As leadership of Saftu in the Western Cape we attended the Portfolio Committee to ascertain why there was no response and whether the committee intends proceeding with the ratification of these bills notwithstanding the representations to the Portfolio Committee.”
Adams said the chairperson did not table Saftu’s letter for the committee to consider.
“We refused to leave the committee meeting until our letter was tabled to the portfolio committee for consideration and a decision to be made thereon. In response the chairperson called on the parliamentary services security services to remove us from the venue.”
Adams said even though they demonstrated peacefully, the union was met with forceful security.
“They proceed to forcefully remove us through assaulting us in the process one of our female leaders was assaulted and dragged out of the venue with no regard to her right to dignity.”
Adams condemned the alleged forceful removal of Saftu members from the sitting.