The emergence of a new industrial relations system in Malawi : a comparative study

Horn, Jan Ernest (2000-03)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This comparative study between the Malawian and the South African Labour Relations Act examines whether local industries in Malawi could benefit more from the new Act in comparison to the South African industries which also were exposed to a new Labour Relations Act. South Africa is the biggest exporter to Malawi representing 31% of total imports. Malawi is a net importer of goods relying on agricultural products such as tobacco, tea and sugar to earn foreign currency. The majority of manufactured goods are imported competing against a relative small local industry, which is not competitive and relies on import tariff for protection against cheaper imports. However, Malawi is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and is committed to import tariff reduction and eventual tariff elimination amongst SADC countries of which South Africa is also a member. This will have a devastating effect on Malawi's manufacturing industry if it cannot improve its competitiveness. One aspect that can assist local industries to become more competitive is the advent of the new Labour Relations acts introduced in both South Africa and Malawi following the historic and co-incidental change in both countries to multiparty democracy during 1994. Both acts recognise collective bargaining as the best means of resolving industrial disputes of interests. In order to make collective bargaining more effective, both acts require employers to disclose information deemed necessary for effective negotiations and bargaining. The acts attempt to assist in the process of reaching agreement between the parties. In Malawi, unresolved disputes must be referred to the Industrial Relations Court whereas the South African act replaced the Industrial Court with a new Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. In addition, the South African Labour Relations Act introduced the workplace forums which are organisations consisting of elected employees who have the right to consult with the employer to reach joint agreement on matters of mutual concern. The Malawian Labour Relations Act requires an employer to recognise a trade union for collective bargaining if the trade union membership represents at least twenty per cent of the employees. However, the South African Labour Relations Act attempts to create a spirit of industrial democracy through joint decisionmaking and promotes the concept of majoritarianism and collective bargaining at industry level. In Malawi, if a dispute is unresolved and it concerns the interpretation of statutory provisions or any provisions of a collective agreement or contract of employment, either party to such a dispute may apply to the Industrial Relations Court for determination of the dispute. However, the South African Labour Relations Act has created two new structures, bargaining councils and statutory councils. These structures perform primarily a dispute resolution function as part of what is referred to in the Act as the self-regulation principle which underlines the entire Act. The South African Labour Relations Act thus promotes self-regulatory principles whereas the Malawian Labour Relations Act promotes dispute resolution measures through statutory structures. In terms of both acts, employees have the right to strike and employers have the right to initiate a lock-out. It is important to note that, in the case of Malawi, seven days notice prior to taking industrial action is required whereas in South Africa only forty-eight hours notice is required. The South African Labour Relations Act has introduced workplace forums for the purpose of preventing or minimising unilateral decision making by employers. It therefore encourages worker participation in managerial decision making through workplace forums. The Malawian Labour Relations Act has not made any provision for workplace forums or any similar structure. This is a significant weakness in the Malawian Labour Relations Act as the encouragement of worker participation in managerial decision making might well be instrumental in the reduction of conflict at the workplace and for both employees and employers to appreciate each others contending goals. Unlike the new Malawian Industrial Relations Act, the new South African Act has replaced the Industrial Court with a new dispute resolution system in the form of a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, which attempts to resolve disputes through the process of mediation and arbitration. The South African Labour Relations Act contains a whole chapter on unfair dismissals whereas the Malawian Labour Relations Act does not specifically address this issue. As to the effectiveness of the Malawian industrial relations system, several recommendations have been made in the following key areas: • Union representation; • Workplace forums; • Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration; and • Unfair dismissal.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie vergelykende studie van die Malawiese en Suid-Afrikaanse Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge ondersoek of plaaslike nywerhede in Malawi meer kan baat van die nuwe Wet in vergelyking met die Suid-Afrikaanse nywerhede wat ook aan die nuwe Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge blootgestel is. Suid-Afrika is die grootste uitvoerder na Malawi, met 'n 31 persent verteenwoordiging van die totale invoere. Malawi is 'n netto invoerder van goedere en maak staat op boerderyprodukte soos tabak, tee en suiker om buitelandse valuta te verdien. Die meerderheid van die vervaardigde goedere word ingevoer en ding mee teen 'n redelike klein plaaslike industrie wat nie kompeterend is nie en vir beskerming teen goedkoper invoere op invoertariewe staatmaak. Malawi is egter 'n lid van die Suider-Afrikaanse Ontwikkelingsgemeenskap en is daartoe verbind om invoertariewe te verlaag en dit uiteindelik tussen die Suider-Afrikaanse Ontwikkelingsgemeenskap-lande, waarvan Suid-Afrika ook 'n lid is, uit te skakel. Dit sal 'n vernietigende uitwerking op Malawi se vervaardigingsindustrie hê as hulle nie hul mededinging kan verbeter nie. Een aspek wat plaaslike nywerhede kan help om meer mededingend te word, is die koms van die nuwe Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge wat, na aanleiding van die geskiedkundige en gelyktydige veranderinge in beide lande na veelpartydemokrasie in 1994, in beide Suid-Afrika en Malawi ingestel is. Beide wette erken kollektiewe bedinging as die beste manier om arbeidsgeskille oor belange te besleg. Om kollektiewe bedinging doeltreffender te maak, vereis beide wette dat werkgewers inligting openbaar maak wat nodig geag word vir doeltreffende onderhandelinge en bedinging. Die wette probeer help dat ooreenkomste tussen die partye bereik word. In Malawi moet geskille wat nie besleg kan word nie, na die Arbeidsbetrekkingehof verwys word terwyl die Suid-Afrikaanse wet die Nywerheidshof met 'n nuwe Kommissie vir Versoening, Bemiddeling en Arbitrasie vervang het. Hierbenewens het die Suid-Afrikaanse Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge die werkplekforums ingestel. Dit is liggame wat bestaan uit werknemers wat gekies is en die reg het om met die werkgewer te beraadslaag om 'n gemeenskaplike ooreenkoms oor gemeenskaplike belange te bereik. Die Malawiese Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge vereis dat 'n werkgewer 'n vakbond erken vir kollektiewe bedinging as die vakbond ledetal minstens 20 persent van die werknemers verteenwoordig. Die Suid-Afrikaanse Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge poog egter om 'n gevoel van arbeidsdemokrasie te skep deur gesamentlike besluitneming en bevorder die konsep van meerderheid en kollektiewe bedinging op industrievlak. As 'n geskil in Malawi nie bygelê kan word nie en dit raak die interpretasie van statutêre bepalings of enige bepalings van 'n kollektiewe ooreenkoms of dienskontrak, kan enigeen van die party tot so 'n geskil by die Arbeidsbetrekkingehof aansoek doen om 'n beslissing oor die geskil. Die Suid- Afrikaanse Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge het egter twee nuwe strukture geskep, onderhandelingsrade en statutêre rade. Hierdie strukture verrig hoofsaaklik 'n geskilbyleggingsfunksie as deel van waarna in die wet as die selfreguleringsbeginsel verwys word en wat die hele wet versterk. Die Suid-Afrikaanse Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge bevorder dus selfreguleringsbeginsels terwyl die Malawiese Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge geskilbyleggingsmetodes deur statutêre strukture bevorder. Ingevolge beide wette het werknemers die reg om te staak en werkgewers het die reg om 'n uitsluitaksie te inisieer. Dit is belangrik om daarop te let dat in die geval van Malawi, sewe dae kennis gegee moet word voor dat die nywerheidsaksie ingestel kan word, en in Suid-Afrika word slegs 48 uur kennis verlang. Die Suid-Afrikaanse Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge het werkplekforums ingestel met die doel om eensydige besluitneming deur werkgewers te voorkom of tot die minimum te beperk. Dit moedig dus werkerdeelname in bestuursbesluitneming deur werkplekforums aan. Die Malawiese Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge het nie vir werkplekforums of enige soortgelyke struktuur voorsiening gemaak nie. Dit is 'n groot swakheid in die Malawiese Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge omdat aanmoediging van werkerdeelname in bestuursbesluitneming straks instrumenteel kan wees in die vermindering van konflik in die werkplek en beide werknemers en werkgewers mekaar se strydende doelwitte kan waardeer. Anders as die nuwe Malawiese Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge, het die nuwe Suid- Afrikaanse wet die Nywerheidshof vervang met 'n nuwe geskilbeslegtingstelsel in die vorm van 'n Kommissie vir Versoening, Bemiddeling en Arbitrasie, wat poog om geskille deur die proses van bemiddeling en arbitrasie by te lê. Die Suid-Afrikaanse Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge bevat 'n hele hoofstuk oor onregverdige afdanking waar die Malawiese Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge dié saak nie spesifiek aanroer nie. Wat die doeltreffendheid van die Malawiese arbeidsverhoudinge-stelsel betref, is verskeie aanbevelings op die volgende gebiede gedoen: • Vakbondverteenwoordiging • Werkplekforums • Kommissie vir Versoening, Bemiddeling en Arbitrasie • Onregverdige afdanking

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