Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has appealed to employees to be proactive, as well as prepare themselves for integration into new technologies.
She was addressing Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) shopsterwards and union officials attending the second annual conference of the CCMA.
The conference comes at a time when there are reports that the digital age aims to dis empower humanity. There are concerns that modernisation will lead to job loses.
The two-day conference will discuss, amongst other things, the role of shop stewards and union officials in South Africa’s advancement into the fourth industrial revolution.
The fourth industrial revolution is the current and developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the internet are changing the way we live and work.
CCMA Director Cameron Morajane says workers should be equipped with skills, so as to move with the changing times.
“If you lose jobs because we are using the machines instead of people, it’s a threat. So we must understand how we train people to be able to drive those machines so that they don’t lose their jobs, so that’s important for us to equip the participants, to prepare for that because it’s already here and it’s going to get worse as we move forward because if that happens, people are going to lose jobs if they don’t have the necessary skills to run certain mechanics in a work place. If you’ve got the necessary skills you will be retained because you have been re- skilled and trained accordingly. “
Morajane says it is the responsibility of labour unions to prevent job losses. “It’s important that union officials understand that the duty to prevent job losses rest with them, because they understand the work place, they understand the workers, they understand the plight of workers. They also have a duty to make sure that there is no unemployment; there is no poverty in our society. So therefore they must equip themselves, represent workers effectively and make sure that instead of dismissing 60 000, you must end up dismissing 20 000 but that happens through a proper effective negotiating process between the employers and the workers.”
Oliphant urged employers to work with CCMA is ensuring that they understand legislation.
“I just want to appeal to the employers also to approach the CCMA to take them through because in most cases you will find that they interpret the legislation the way it suits them while they don’t understand what that particular law has in terms of the intention is. So immediately when they do that then they violate what they are supposed to do because they have the obligations to implement the legislation according to what we have agreed upon.”
Oliphant has raised concern on possible job losses, due to technology introduction.