More ‘can do’ needed from SA
Business, labour and government must become more active, and act in sync
THE birth of new labour policies in SA is not going to happen without a high degree of pain. These labour pains will be felt in equal measure by those that fail to heed the call for change. It appears the days of simply ticking boxes or paying lip service to change are truly over.
The shocking xenophobic attacks on foreigners in the past month have played a role in highlighting just why this change is so important. They have shown just how badly the social and employment fabric in SA has been torn by a lack of opportunity and economic inclusion. Hard questions have been raised, but the challenge will be about how committed all businesses and individuals are to change.
Former global chairman of Norton Rose Fulbright and current chairman of the South African practice, Sbu Gule (his global chairmanship expired at the end of last month), says one of the major lessons he learnt while occupying the global top job was that utilisation of human resources is the main differentiator between successful and unsuccessful countries.
“A country that is able to invest in its white collar workers has human resources to grow, as it can leverage on educated people. For blue collar workers, how labour laws are dealt with becomes important,” he says.
While outrage must be voiced at the xenophobic attacks, it also means far more must be done by all citizens and workers to contribute towards growth and development of this country’s economy.
all South Africans can do more and accelerate everything. Unfortunately there is a culture of pointing fingers and of the different stakeholders not coming together to say ‘We are in this together, let’s work together’. There is also a culture of complacency and thinking ‘someone else will do things for us’.”
Countries that have been successful have had citizens with a “can do” attitude. They say: “We will do something to change the living conditions of people.” Mexico is an example of how the balance can be struck and how a “can do” attitude can make a significant difference.
“It is now very attractive to invest in Mexico because they had buy-in to the plan from all stakeholders; and in particular employees via unions were included within the vision of the country,” says Gule.
In Mexico, the opposition and ruling party agreed on the fundamental changes needed to ensure its economy succeeded. As a result, Mexico is becoming an attractive destination for the US. It is possible this type of model could be replicated in Africa with the right commitment from all stakeholders.
While the National Development Plan in SA is important to put in place, its downfall is that government and business have not been “in sync”. And labour organisations do not work often enough with other stakeholders towards attaining goals that will advance development.
“There is no one party to blame — all of us are not working in concert and then you find each party is still very much concerned about what they can get out of our economy for themselves,” says Gule.
And dealing with xenophobia by tightening border controls would only be a short-term solution.
“What we should be doing is not only looking at growing the South African economy but also at more regional integration — a strong trading bloc will be more attractive to investors and once all regions are integrated you are less likely to have these migration issues,” says Gule.
Revisions to empowerment codes in SA take effect this month and these changes are also going to be important to setting us on the path to a more sustainable economic future that includes more people in the wealth generation capacity of the country.
“It is unfortunate business in gen-
eral has not really embraced it. Government has come up with something to accelerate transformation because there is a realisation not much has happened. It would be nice to have a sweet spot where even business takes up the fight on behalf of government, supporting the codes in place and becoming vocal about backing government as well as ensuring government does not have to police us to achieve them. It is in the interests of our country to have true transformation and there is an opportunity to work together to do what is good for the country,” says Gule.
But he says there is a concern that quite a few businesses (hopefully not too many) will just “fudge it”.
The following sections of the Revised Codes are important:
Qualifying small enterprises (QSE) scorecard;
The procedures to develop and gazette sector charters;
A scorecard for enterprises;
The recognition in the sale of assets; and
The QSE scorecard is of particular significance because QSEs will be measured against all elements of the BEE scorecard if the QSE is verified after May 1 2015 and not just the four elements of its choice as under the current codes. QSEs should have considered and planned for the (final) QSE scorecard before May 1.
Other important changes are that various sector councils will be introduced to revise the existing sector codes and oversee BEE in those sectors. Entities measured against sector codes will be required to submit their BEE certificates to the various sector councils to be established.
Exempted micro-enterprises with 100% black ownership or beneficiaries will qualify for a level one contributor status and those with at least 51% black ownership or beneficiaries will qualify for level two status.
A superb article on page 11 by Jonathan Goldberg and Grant Wilkinson from Global Business Solutions delves into labour law changes coming the way of business.
The issue of equality in the workplace remains contentious, for example, but this is also becoming critical in light of the xenophobic attacks.
The question of equal treatment is not only a South African issue, as worldwide there is research being conducted on the large wage gap between CEO’s salaries and those of general workers.
The legislature has attempted to tackle this inequality through the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Equity Act amendments recently implemented.
Business is certainly facing mounting pressure to transform. But many businesses were scrambling to get their certificates in order ahead of the May 1 deadline. It was not a good start, but what is palpably clear is that without significant change, the risk is more unhappiness by an increasingly disgruntled working class. And that is in no-one’s interests.
IT’S A GROUP EFFORT