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Compiled by Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor

Workers’ Day: Parliament acknowledges farm labourers plight and unemployment

Despite progress in protecting workers rights and improving working conditions South Africa's unemployment rate remains high.

Parliament’s Presiding Officers, on this International Workers’ Day has acknowledged the somewhat pitiful state of the economy and struggles that workers of today continue to endure despite legal reform to improve working conditions.

Farmer working conditions leave much to be desired

Recently, National Assembly assigned two Portfolio Committees: Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development, and Employment and Labour to assess whether relevant legislation is being implemented and the state of work done by various state agencies, government departments, and social partners in the farming sector.

“Oversight visits have revealed that despite numerous legislative policy formulations and interventions, workers and farm dwellers continue to face challenges such as tenure insecurity, threatened livelihoods, and violations of their human and labour rights,” said Parliament in a statement.

Parliament acknowledges the collaborative work within the farming sector that involves various social partners, farm owners, farmworkers, and farm dwellers in seeking solutions to the challenges faced by farming communities.”

Both portfolio committees have promised to continue oversight work in the agricultural sector.

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Members of the National Assembly conceded that despite “progress in protecting workers’ rights and improving working conditions,” South Africa’s unemployment rate remains high, particularly amongst the youths.

“It is crucial that as many South Africans as possible are included in the labour market through efforts to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and invest in education and training.

Parliament acknowledges the urgency of addressing unemployment and is committed to strengthening oversight over programmes and strategies for sustainable employment opportunities.”

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The road to fair and equal working conditions

While the cynical among us might find the notion of fair and equal working conditions akin to the discovery of unicorns, Parliament remains hopeful.

“Key pieces of legislation such as the National Minimum Wage Bill, the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, and the Labour Relations Act have all contributed to building a socially just labour system.

These laws have ensured acceptable daily wage rates, the extension of bargaining agreements to non-parties, and overall improvements in workers’ conditions in South Africa,” said Parliment.

Since 1994, Workers’ Day in South Africa has been officially recognised as a celebration of workers’ rights, and a reminder of the critical role played by the country’s workforce in the struggle against apartheid.

“Parliament pays tribute to workers for the gallant struggles they waged against oppressive labour laws under colonial and apartheid systems of government.”

But at the same time it acknowledged that much more needs to be done to address existing disparities and respond positively to calls for “equal pay for equal work” across all sectors.

“Continual strengthening of existing labour laws and extensive oversight on their implementation remain Parliament’s priority.

Through its oversight instruments, Parliament continues to sharpen policy and law-making mechanisms to improve the living and working conditions of the South African working class at large,” Parliament concluded.

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