Minister Mildred Oliphant: 2018 National Economic Development and Labour Council Annual Summit

Opening remarks by the Minister of Labour, MN Oliphant, on the occasion of the 2018 NEDLAC Annual Summit

Programme Director,

His Excellency, Honourable Deputy President,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers here present,

Leaders of our social Partners; Organised Business, Organised Labour and Community Constituency,

Senior Officials of Government,

Leaders of Government Institutions,

Distinguished guests,

Members of the media,

Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning

I am indeed honoured to stand before you this morning on the occasion of the 23rd Anniversary of the Nedlac Annual Summit.

It is indeed a momentous occasion considering that social dialogue has since become the culture of dealing with challenges in this country.

A crucial moment in South Africa's transition to democracy, was the signing of the Laboria Minute in 1990 between unions, employers and government where it was agreed that, no laws on labour market issues would be passed, without the agreement of all three social partners. This of course led to the establishment of the National Economic Forum (NEF) in 1992.

Some of you may recall that it was this newly established National Economic Forum, which merged with the National Manpower Commission, to create South Africa's premier social dialogue institution, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC).

NEDLAC is distinctive as a dialogue institution, in that it includes, not just labour market issues, but also trade and industrial policy, monetary and fiscal policy as well as developmental issues. I truly believe that successful social dialogue structures and processes, carry the real potential to resolve important economic and social issues, encourage good governance, advance social and industrial peace and stability and boost economic progress.

In order to ensure that social dialogue remains an integral component of the South African policy-making and national decision-making system, social partners rely on a system of consultation and dialogue to build on a shared national vision. Dialogue in our view, is accepted as a means of consolidating a young, democratic, but deeply divided society. It's also a medium through which to enhance participation in policy formulation and decision-making.

South Africa prides itself as a democratic developing country that adheres to the principles of good governance, and, acknowledges the importance of civil society participation in state affairs. Many commentators at home and abroad, agree that Nedlac remains one of the key vehicles for social dialogue in South Africa. We know that among the 187 ILO-member states, there are many that wish they could have a social dialogue institution like we have in this country.

At times we take for granted the world class institutional set up that we have in this country, and often do not show appreciation that we have institutions that are among the best in world.

As we gather this morning to take stock of progress so that we can tool and retool for the road ahead, let us remember that whilst we have made major strides in our history since the dawn of democracy, there is still some way to go.

Finally, let me, all-be-it briefly raise one matter that is of cardinal importance. I have been advised that the SA Human Rights Commission conducted an investigation on the constitutionality of Affirmative Action policy cum Employment Equity. To this end I am advised that a report was released with a conclusion that both the Affirmative Action Policy and the Employment Equity Act were unconstitutional and not in sync with International Conventions.

The report makes various recommendations on what needs to be done, including a recommendation to amend the Employment Equity Act. The Commission gives government six months to report back on steps taken to give effect to its recommendations. It follows therefore that the Nedlac social partners need to study this report and advise on its stance vis-A�-vis the recommendations of the Commission. It might even be useful to seek an audience with the Commission in order to understand the basis for its report, findings and the recommendations.

This is important given that all our labour laws has to pass constitutional scrutiny before they can be signed into law. The conclusions to the contrary by the Commission demands special attention from all of us in general and the Nedlac social partners in particular.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2018 Nedlac Annual National Summit, is declared opened.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa