Wage sys­tem back in court

Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion will try to dis­able the mech­a­nism that al­lows em­ploy­ers and unions to ne­go­ti­ate sec­tor-wide wages

CityPress - - Business -

min­i­mum wages from as low as R2 000 to as high as R7 000 for oc­cu­pa­tions in dif­fer­ent sec­tors.

The orig­i­nal case made by the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion was sweep­ing, with claims that the wage-set­ting sys­tem vi­o­lated a num­ber of con­sti­tu­tional rights.

The case has now been whit­tled down to a rel­a­tively sim­ple le­gal is­sue: Are bar­gain­ing coun­cils “pub­lic” en­ti­ties? The Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion says no. In­stead, they are pri­vate en­ti­ties given un­con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers to set wages for non-par­ties that the min­is­ter has to im­pose on ev­ery­one else.

The min­is­ter of labour, coun­cils and unions say yes, they are pub­lic en­ti­ties in that they ex­ist to carry out a process cre­ated by law with legally del­e­gated pow­ers. This is not a new bat­tle. Cosatu fought off an at­tempt in 1988 to change the act to give the min­is­ter of labour pow­ers like those the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion wants her to have.

The case is also one of sev­eral that have taken aim at sec­tion 32 of the act.

The re­spon­dents, in­clud­ing the min­is­ter, claim the le­gal ques­tions have al­ready been an­swered in other cases, mak­ing the ex­er­cise point­less.

The cloth­ing and me­tals sec­tor’s bar­gain­ing coun­cils have seen their ex­ten­sions chal­lenged in court over the past few years.

Like the more mod­est at­tack in the cloth­ing sec­tor’s case, the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion’s case has had a rich backer.

Capitec chair­per­son Michiel le Roux bankrolled it through his phil­an­thropic foun­da­tion, the Mil­len­nium Trust.

The Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion’s case has been driven by busi­ness­man-turned-politi­cian Her­man Mashaba, who be­came chair of the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion around about the time he started fi­nanc­ing the court chal­lenge.

Mashaba has now with­drawn from both the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion and the case on ac­count of be­com­ing the DA’s may­oral can­di­date for Jo­han­nes­burg.

Ac­cord­ing to Jayne Boc­ca­le­one, spokesper­son for the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion, the think-tank is now car­ry­ing the costs it­self.

PHOTO: KHAYA NG­WENYA

LABOUR LAW Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion be­lieves it can blow a hole in the mech­a­nism that gives or­gan­ised em­ploy­ers and unions the abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate sec­tor-wide wages

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