On 9 October 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), alongside the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), hosted a workshop on the Right to Work in Johannesburg. The event was attended by approximately 40 members of precarious worker organisations, local and national government officials, practitioners, academics and civil society organisations.
In October 2018, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee) issued its Concluding Observations to the Government of South Africa’s first report to the Committee since it ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICECSR) in 2015. The purpose of the workshop was to provide an orientation on the right to decent work and to the Committee’s Concluding Observations and to discuss how the recommendations can be implemented and used to further our different advocacy strategies of the various stakeholder groups present.
The workshop began with a presentation by the ICJ’s Tim Fish Hodgson on the Committee’s Concluding Observations on the rights to work and to an adequate standard of living. He highlighted the important role of international law as a value add to national labour legislation, where the express right to work is absent. University of Cape Town’s Jan Theron followed with a presentation on the challenges in translating these international recommendations into reality, highlighting that the current legislative framework covers and protects full-time employees in standard jobs while workers in non-standard jobs have partial protections and that those in the informal economy have even fewer protections and are usually unable to exercise fundamental worker rights such as the right to collective bargaining.
The session which followed consisted of three panel discussions. In the first panel, Steven Leeu of African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) spoke about their struggle for recognition as workers and in terms of their contribution to the recycling industry in the country. In the second panel, members of Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance spoke about their efforts organising domestic workers at the neighbourhood level and their fight as part of the One Wage Campaign for farmworkers, domestic workers and EPWP employees to be included in the R20 per hour minimum wage. In the last panel, Charles Parkerson from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) spoke about their forthcoming informal economy position paper, which aims to guide South Africa’s 257 municipalities’ regulation and support of the informal economy. Brian Phaaloh of South African Informal Trader Forum (SAITF), Jane Barrett from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organising (WIEGO), Lulama Mali from Johannesburg Informal Trader Platform (JITP), Kelebogile Khunou from SERI and Caroline Skinner from WIEGO participated as discussants.
Participants of the workshop reached consensus on the following points, which were summarised at the close of the workshop: