South African Labor Laws Are Too Restrictive

    18 April, 2013

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

    South Africa's rate of unemployment is about 25%. Some businesses and economists say South African labor laws are too restrictive. They say this keeps the jobless rate too high.

    Business leaders are especially concerned about laws on employing and dismissing workers. For example, Simon Arcus dismissed an employee who stepped in  another worker. The employee took the businessman to labor court. Mr. Arcus spent 7,000 dollars in court before he reached the settlement with the employee.

    "I really shouldn't be in that position, to have had to spent anything, and the actual money part didn't bug me as much as the fact that I have to give up my time and other staff members, and go to considerable expense when in my opinion it was opening an closed case."

    Business owners like Simon Acus believe it should be easier to dismiss an employee. Now, owners must give an employee a warning in person and then two separate written warnings. Then comes a hearing where employees can defend their actions. Only after that, can employees be dismissed.

    However, the employee can dispute the dismissal in labor court. Lawyer Shamima Gaibie works closely with Labor Unions. She says workers need to be protected by the law.

    "Given the imbalances, and I think given the past, and given the issues that have arisen from that past. I think that for the first time in this country, I think employees have the basic rights, which I think all the employees should have on the world."

    She notes the case of striking mine workers in the town of Marikana as an example of the need for strong labor laws in South Africa. Police shooting-killed 34 miners there last year when the strike turned violent.

    "I think that until and unless the employers and the trade unions achieve an amicable relationship that generates trust and almost generates an atmosphere of working together, I think for the moment, and maybe for the foreseeable future, I think legislation is needed."

    Another lawyer Nick Robb says South Africa's Labor Relations Act was one of the most important laws past after the end of white minority rule.

    "The first piece of legislation which they dealt with was the labor relations act, which wasn't surprising-I mean, it made complete sense. They actually installed it as a very important piece of legislation. It ranked second only to the constitution among all statutes in this country."

    Last year more than half of those living in South Africa's cities said the country's labor loss are slowing grow. South Africa was rated next to last in hiring and firing practices in a report from the World Economic Forum.

    Lucy Holborn is with the South Africa Institute for Race Relations. She says the country's businesses are being pressured to help in  poverty and in equality. And the government expects them to create jobs.

    And that's the Economics Report. I'm Milagros Ardin.