THE EDITOR: The working people of this country are under heavy attack from employers who are set on reducing workers’ benefits to the minimum. All workers are under attack and not only public sector and state enterprise workers.
What do the employers and the one per cent want? The objective is to maximise their profits by minimising their labour costs; by demoralising their workforce through retrenchment, wage suppression and the cutting back of hard-won benefits. They want to have the freedom to make maximum use of multi-skilling and to be able to write job descriptions that are open to manipulation.
Ninety per cent or more of the matters that are decided in the Industrial Court are from workers who are not members of a recognised majority union bargaining unit. The employers have come up with a strategy that involves further weakening the unions while ensuring that non-unionised workers know and stay in their place:
* They want to remove the provision in law that says that a worker, whether previously unionised or not, must be represented by a union in the Industrial Court.
* They want to have the right to examine unions’ financial status (the books) when unions make applications for recognition.
* They want what they call small and micro-enterprise employers to be exempt from punishment for unfair dismissals and from the procedures that apply to other employers when it comes to trade disputes.
* They want to make it illegal for the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board to grant recognised majority-union status to a bargaining unit of less than 20 workers.
* They want unions to be decertified for bargaining units that fall below the magic number (20).
* They are against domestic workers being treated like “workers” under the law, despite the Government pretending to support ILO recommendation 189 and promising to enable it through legislation.
* They want unions to pay costs in matters that employers win in the Industrial Court.
* They are against workers who have been unjustly dismissed being reinstated.
* They want to be able to retrench so-called “contract workers” at will.
* They want to cut back on leave provisions in collective agreements.
* They have developed legal mechanisms to delay and frustrate the already long drawn-out process of recognition which they developed to frustrate the RBC recognition struggle by BIGWU.
* They want restrictions on appeals against Industrial Court judgments to be removed.
What the one per cent and the ruling party do not understand is that the gutting of the Industrial Court and the introduction of legislation to further the interests of the business and political elites will have the effect of shifting the workers’ struggles for economic security back to the workplace and the streets and away from the boardroom and the court.
Instead of ensuring dominance over their workers, it will lead to an intensification of the class struggle, which will not be restricted to industrial relations issues, but will involve the question of the quality of life and, inevitably, to the question of how power is exercised, who exercises it and in whose interest it is exercised.
The employers and the Government are ordering what they cannot eat!
National Workers Union