Crusader takes on labour act
BUSINESS pioneer Herman Mashaba is fighting against what he believes are unjust labour laws.
This week the Freemarket Foundation chairman announced that he was proceeding with his quest to challenge the constitutional validity of section 32 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).
Section 32 says that once a bargaining council, consisting of big business and labour unions, agree on workplace rules and regulations, they affect third parties, regardless of whether it’s a struggling enterprise or big business.
I can’t sit back now that I’m a privileged businessman. I have to do something for small business,” the executive chairman of Lephatsi Investments said.
Mashaba said the foundation had been trying to persuade lawmakers to change this draconian” labour legislation so that it could empower emerging businesses rather than disadvantage them.
Mashaba has committed his own money to finance the legal challenge.
My cause is to free business from political domination. I’m also doing this for my kids so that I am not accused of not helping to rescue the future of this country,” he said.
Imposing unrealistic regulations on small roleplayers that are strug- gling to survive will do nothing to get rid of the mass unemployment in this country.”
He said that whenever they tried to engage with parliament to address section 32, Cosatu responded instead of parliament. Our legal people realised these were delaying tactics, so that this piece of legislation can be passed.
It’s obvious that these laws favour Cosatu and big business and the few people who are employed.
What about the millions of unemployed?”
Speaking out in such a brazen manner cannot be easy in a country marred by growing political tension but Mashaba said he was not scared of stepping on anyone’s toes”. He said he was disappointed as he expected support from Cosatu.
An example of black business success against all odds” during the apartheid era, Mashaba believes he would not have been successful if the current labour laws had been in place in the 1980s.
I was only 19 when I abandoned my studies to start my own cosmetics business because I was against oppression,” he recalled.
I paid my employees only what I could afford. Nowadays, small businesses have to pay the same wages as giants and multinationals like Unilever and Colgate SA.”
Under section 32, the labour minister must effect the regulations set in bargaining councils on other parties not involved in the negotiations.
To remedy this destructive law, I’m not asking for a lot, just for the wording to change from must to may so that the minister uses her discretion to evaluate the impact the law has on some businesses.”
Should the law be revised, Mashaba said the economy would sort itself out and there would be little worry about business owners exploiting their workers.
The overall work environment will be competitive because most of the current problems are a result of a shortage of job opportunities.
Where there is full employment, that way people will have the freedom to choose where they render their services if they are unhappy in one place.”
Mashaba said he was confident that he would come out victorious.
I cannot fathom why I wouldn’t win because my fight is constitutional.
I’m striving to empower the poor. We also need black businesses we can be proud of, where we create an environment that is conducive to creating more black industrialists, big players.”