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Opposition block discussions on labour bills

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They complained that the governing party was rushing the bills

Picture: NIC BOTHMA, EPA

THE OPPOSITION parties have scored a small victory when they forced the cancellation of  parliamentary meetings scheduled to consider the labour bills, including the national minimum wage, this week.

The meetings were set to be convened days before Parliament reconvened for the second term on April 17 following the two-week constituency period that ends this Friday (April 13).

When the matter was initially discussed in the labour portfolio committee 12 days ago, opposition parties – the DA and EFF – vehemently opposed to return to Parliament before the constituency period ended.

They had complained that the governing party was rushing the bills, but despite their concerns the ANC used its majority vote to push through a resolution regardless.

Yesterday, acting portfolio committee chairperson Sharome van Schalkwyk said they would not meet as scheduled “due to unavailability of some of the members of the opposition in the committee for the meeting this week”.

The committee had been granted permission by chairperson of committees Cedric Frolick to meet on April 10-12 to process the legislation dealing with the National Minimum Wage Bill, Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill.

Van Schalkwayk said the committee would now meet next week to formally consider  submissions on the bills.

The Independent Media understands that invitation was sent to committee members on Friday only to be withdrawn until further notice less than 30 minutes after the opposition indicated their unavailability.

Opposition parties yesterday hailed the the postponement of the three-day meeting as a victory.

“We have constituency commitments we have to attend to do. More importantly, they wanted to rush the legislation without giving adequate opportunity to stakeholders to present their case to the committee, particularly the South African Federation of Trade Unions,” DA’s Derrick America said.

“It was wise counsel on the part of the ANC to listen to us by postponing the portfolio committee meeting until get back on April 17,” he said.

The EFF’s George Moteka said the push for the cancelled meeting despite their objection showed the ANC was stubborn.

“We told them there is no rush. This thing must be done thoroughly so that at the end of the day it serves the purpose of these bills,” Moteka said.

“They are in a hurry to an extent that they leave issues of workers behind. They don’t care. We give them input, they just ignore them,” he said referring to their concerns about EFF demand that the minimum wage bill cater for workers in the expanded public work programme.

Moteka ascribed the postponement to the opposition resoluteness not to return before the constituency period ended.

“We told them we are not available for that period  because we will be serving our communities down there. When we come back from the constituency period,we are going to deal with this matter til we make sure workers are not losing because the whole exercise is harming the workers workers than anybody else,” he said.

The labour bills were envisaged to be implemented on May 1, but could not as Parliament is currently processing them.