South Africa: Statement on Workers’ Day by the Presiding Officers of Parliament

South Africa: Statement on Workers’ Day by the Presiding Officers of Parliament

South Africa: Statement on Workers’ Day by the Presiding Officers of Parliament

South Africa: Statement on Workers’ Day by the Presiding Officers of Parliament

As we celebrate Workers’ Day, the Acting Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Amos Masondo, extend their heartfelt gratitude and congratulations to the workers of South Africa. 

This year, as we mark 30 years of democratic governance, we are reminded of the monumental strides made towards justice and equality, driven by the resilience and tenacity of our workers and trade unions. Since the advent of democracy in 1994, Parliament has been instrumental in transforming the legislative landscape to better serve our workers and protect their rights. Among the inaugural acts of the newly democratic Parliament was the passage of the Labour Relations Act on 11 November 1996. This important law was not merely regulatory. It was a bold declaration of our commitment to align South Africa’s labour laws with our democratic Constitution and international norms. The Act enshrines the rights of workers which did not exist before – the right to organise, join trade unions, and strike, ensuring that trade union representatives have access to workplaces. It also sets the framework for collective bargaining and establishes bargaining councils, which are crucial for mediating labour disputes and enhancing workplace relations.

Following closely was the Employment Equity Act, which came into effect in 1998. This Act is a cornerstone of our commitment to dismantle the legacies of discrimination and inequality. By prohibiting unfair discrimination and promoting affirmative action, this legislation has been instrumental in creating more equitable workplaces and opportunities for all South Africans, regardless of race, gender, or status. 

These progressive laws and many others passed by the democratic Parliament over the last 30 years of democracy have profoundly transformed labour rights and workplace conditions, marking a significant departure from the past where Black workers were subjected to conditions akin to slavery. They ensured that Black workers transition from a history of exploitation and inequality to a present where their rights are robustly protected and their contributions to the economy are meaningfully valued. This transformation represents significant strides toward rectifying the deep-rooted injustices of apartheid, contributing to the creation of a more equitable and just labour market. These legislative advancements reflect a deliberate and necessary commitment to dismantling systemic barriers and uplifting the historically marginalised.  

Despite significant advances in workers’ rights, we recognise that the journey towards a fully inclusive and equitable labour market is far from over. In this regard, we commend ongoing efforts dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for South Africans by introducing more robust social and economic interventions, improving access to education and skills training, and fostering a more dynamic job market. 

Recent data from Statistics South Africa offers a glimmer of hope, showing a growing readiness among the working-age population to participate in the labour market—a notable reversal from previous trends of discouragement. Nevertheless, we remain concerned about persistent gender disparities and the disproportionately high levels of discouragement among the youth regarding employment. These challenges underscore the need for targeted strategies to ensure equitable opportunities for all, particularly the most vulnerable groups in our society. 

Parliament remains unwavering in its dedication to improving the lives and working conditions of South African workers. Through robust oversight and proactive legislation, we strive to ensure that our nation recognises and promotes the contributions of every worker and continues to build an inclusive economy that benefits all.

On this Workers’ Day, we recommit ourselves to the principles of fairness, equality, and justice. We celebrate the achievements we have made together and acknowledge the work that still lies ahead.

Happy Workers’ Day, South Africa! Let us continue to strive for a nation where every worker’s potential is realised and valued.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.