WHY OUR LABOUR LAWS DON’T MAKE ANY SENSE
At my kids’ school carnival recently, my seven-year-old daughter Kayla won a prize at one of the booths. She wasn’t happy though. The booth had run out of prizes for girls, and she had to decide between action figures, toy guns and soccer balls. She didn’t like anything. So my wife came up with a bright idea.
“Why don’t you choose that Hero Factory toy?” she said, pointing to a brightly coloured pack on the top shelf.
“But I don’t like Hero Factory!” Kayla protested. “Why would I want that?”
“You’re right, you don’t like Hero Factory,” my wife replied, “but your brother Jayden is totally crazy about it. Why don’t you take the Hero Factory toy now and then swop it for something that you want from Jayden when you get home?”
It was a good plan and Kayla immediately saw the value in it. A few hours later, Jayden was happily playing with his new toy and Kayla came skipping past me with a big smile on her face. “So what did you get for it?” I asked.
“This!” she yelled excitedly, pointing to her open mouth. Inside was a big wad of sticky chewing gum. “It pops in your mouth! Cool, hey?”
It wasn’t cool. “That’s crazy,” I reprimanded her. “The Hero Factory toy costs about R100 in the shops and that chewing gum is only about R20. You got a bad deal!” I thought it would be a good moment to teach my daughter about the f ine art of negotiation. So I told her to think about the “value of your offering to the other person before deciding what you want in return.” I told her that because her brother was besotted with Hero Factory, she could have got a lot more from him in the exchange.
I left her to ponder her mistake, content in the knowledge that I had imparted a valuable life lesson to my young daughter. My contentment didn’t last long, however.
The next thing I knew, my house had become a war zone. “You cheated me!” screamed Kayla, chasing after her brother. “No, I didn’t!” he yelled back, “You took the deal, you can’t take it back now!”
He was right of course. I should have known better. In retrospect, the ensuing fight was both predictable and avoidable. I should have just kept quiet and left my two kids alone, each content in the deal they had negotiated between themselves. A lesson for our labour minister We all know that unemployment is a massive problem in South Africa. In fact, it is probably the biggest problem we face since it is the source of many other major other problems, including crime and poverty. It goes without saying that our labour minister should be doing everything in her power to address the problem. The problem is that most of the Government’s interventions in the labour market, while well-intentioned, are destructive.
Let’s look at the essence of the employment contract. As an employee I undertake to provide my employer with my productive output for a certain number of hours every
Dr Gavin Symanowitz is an actuary and founder of FeedbackRocket.com, an awardwinning online innovation that enables anonymous management feedback.