Statement on the first ever Virtual Workers Parliament
STATEMENT BY THE SPEAKER OF KWAZULU-NATAL LEGISLATURE, MS NONTEMBEKO BOYCE ON THE STATE OF READINESS FOR THE FIRST EVER VIRTUAL WORKERS’ PARLIAMENT
9 MAY 2020
The outbreak of Coronavirus dictates that the efforts and work of all of us including the Executive is directed towards curbing the spread of the virus. We, at the Legislature understand that this mammoth task of containing the spread of the pandemic requires our collective efforts working with the Executive, to ensure that all the COVID-19 regulations and protocols that have been promulgated and all other executive decisions and actions taken are implemented fully, efficiently and effectively within available recourses.
Even during this time of COVID-19, the Legislature remains compelled to consider the most appropriate mechanisms and modalities for ensuring that as a separate arm of the state, the Legislature exercises its constitutional responsibility of oversight, law-making and public involvement.
Over the past three weeks, the leadership of the legislature has been seized with critical consultations with the federations regarding the annual Workers’ Parliament. We would like to announce that it is all systems go for the 2020 Workers’ Parliament. The Legislature, through sector parliaments, involves various sectors of society in matters of governance in the province. Workers’ Parliament is one of the sector parliaments initiated by the Legislature to give workers a platform to discuss and debate issues that affect them. We are excited about the fact that all our stakeholders are now fully on board and we are ready to officially host the 2020 Workers’ Parliament
This is an annual event, and traditionally over the years, has been a two-day programme that commences with the commissions discussing various topics and culminates in the Premier’s address. Due to the current situation wherein, the country is in a state of disaster and all sections of society are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for radical alteration and adjustment to the normal way of functioning. The programme has been crafted to allow the sitting to be no longer than 3 hours.
With the month of May being the Workers’ Month, the KZN Legislature will host its annual Workers Parliament on the 12th of May 2020 on a Virtual Platform where workers from the three major federations in the province will participate in discussions, discussing matters that affect workers. Delegates from Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu will deliberate on this year’s theme “Economic Shocks of COVID-19, Its Far-Reaching Impact on the Labour Market: Workers Feeling the Pinch”
The thinking behind this theme:
COVID-19 came as a health crisis which gradually developed into an economic and labour market crisis. We seek to hear from the presenters the list of economic shocks presented by the pandemic, what impact on the labour market. Planning team also spoke about challenges facing the UIF, and undoubtedly such challenges impact negatively on the workers, that’s why we are putting forward the statement “Workers feeling the pinch”, job losses retrenchments, and grave risk of absence of social security caused by devastating health and economic crisis, these combined make workers feel the pinch.
Platform and how many people will participate
The proceedings will run virtually through a tool called Microsoft Teams which will allow all 20 presenters and delegates to be added as participants.
Presenters and topics
Background and Purpose of the Workers’ Parliament, and the role of the Legislature in holding government accountable on promises made regarding COVID-19 -Hon. NN Boyce Speaker: KZN Legislature
A presentation on Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF): How it is done and how many companies have applied for COVID-19 relief benefits on behalf of their workers for this relief fund will be done by Ms Gugu Khomo from Department of Labour
Job losses and retrenchments because of the current economic climate: what is government’s plan for job creation, this presentation will be done by Sihle Mkhize from Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs
There after we will have the Premier’s Address on Responses to 2018 Resolutions, implementation thereof, and on government mechanisms to deal with the pandemic and address job losses
Participants and Observers
The sitting will have 20 participants which include 10 delegates from all 3 federations; Cosatu 5 delegates, Fedusa with 3 delegates, NACTU with 2 delegates. A number of observers have also been invited, these include the MPLs, MECs, Speakers and Deputy Speakers of the other 8 Legislatures, Workers in KZN apart from the federation delegation and the Media.
As you are aware that public participation is critical in the business of the Legislature, we have created a number of platforms to ensure that the sitting reaches a wide audience even under such challenging times. Workers and the public at large will be able to access the proceedings through the following channels.
WhatsApp Number: 060 503 2194
Email Address: 2020WorkersParliament@kznleg.gov.za
Twitter: @KznLegislature #KZNWorkersParliament2020Live
Facebook: KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, KZN Legislature Speaker and KZN Legislature Deputy Speaker
YouTube: KwaZulu-Natal Legislature
These can be used to view the proceedings and also get updates on the proceedings.
What is the Legislature doing for the workers during this difficult time?
The Legislature, as part of the Speaker’s social responsibility programme is engaging federations on interventions to be made for workers during this time where some have had to endure Salary cuts, Job losses and the lack of Personal Protective Equipment. More details will be shared in the coming weeks as the programme gets finalised.
The work of the Legislature during Lockdown
In these circumstances, it becomes even more critical for the Legislature to exercise oversight and hold relevant departments accountable for actions taken to stop the spread of the virus. To this end, the Legislature is informed formally by the Executive of actions to be taken at various stages, and its Committees oversee those actions.
The work of the Legislature continues even under these challenging times, management provided guidelines on the critical roles that staff must perform during the lockdown period to ensure that the Legislature is able to perform its oversight, law making and public involvement responsibilities.
Just to take you through briefly on what has been happening in the Legislature during Lockdown, the following meetings took place on the week of the 13 April 2020 to give direction to the business of the Legislature
a) Meeting with Leaders of political parties
This meeting was held on the 15th April 2020 for the Premier to present a report to the Speakership and Party Leaders in the Legislature on the Executive Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and for the Speaker to share the Legislature’s plan to perform its oversight function, law-making and public involvement responsibility in the context of the lockdown.
b) Programme Committee
The Programme Committee met on 16th April 2020 to consider and adopt the revised calendar. The adopted calendar is hereby attached as Annexure C and covers activities until June 2020.
The calendar reflecting the period between July to December will be developed in consultation with the Presiding Officers having due regard to the fluidity of the Covid-19 environment.
c) Chairpersons Committee
The Legislature drafted guidelines on how its Committees should perform their oversight function in the context of Covid-19 pandemic. These were adopted by the Chairperson’s Committee on the 16th April 2020.
These guidelines are aimed at assisting the Legislature to undertake oversight specifically on the Government Programmes to contain the spread of the virus. They are aimed at ensuring that the Legislature is able to undertake its Constitutional Mandate with members playing an active role albeit in a safe environment that will not expose them to risks of contracting the virus.
d) Whips Forum
A Whips Forum meeting took place on the 17th April 2020. This session was to sensitize the Committee on the changes in respect of the Calendar and how the Legislature is responding to Covid-19 pandemic. The Whips Forum will then consider the Sitting programme in the light of the calendar that was passed by Programming Committee.
e) Rules Committee
The Rules Committee met on the 17th April 2020 to consider a new chapter in the Rules to cater for virtual meetings of the Legislature Committees and House Sittings. This was pre-empted by the Speaker sharing her proposed Ruling in terms of Rule 2 that caters for eventualities that the Rules do not provide for.
Having considered all the above, the Legislature adopted an approach underpinned by the following:
a) Deployment of Information Communication Technology (ICT) solutions,
b) Training of Members and Staff on the use of Microsoft Teams;
c) Review of the annual calendar of the institution to respond to Covid-19 pandemic;
d) Reactivation of all Committees to conduct their business through virtual means;
e) Options for Sittings that include Virtual Sittings, cluster approach for physical Budget Sittings or normal budget and other Sittings with increased distancing. The relevant option will be chosen depending on the circumstances that prevail at the time;
f) Development of Oversight guidelines on Covid-19 for all Committees;
g) Development of a Covid-19 Communication Strategy;
h) Review of the Standing Rules of the Legislature to accommodate virtual sittings and meetings;
i) Review of data allocation for members and staff for virtual meetings; and
j) Provision of safe environment for the Legislative work as and when Members, staff and stakeholders attend at the Legislature Buildings.
The above interventions have enabled the Legislature to conduct all political management committee meetings by virtual means, including the budget hearings, save for Portfolio Committee on Conservation and Environmental Affairs which will meet on Tuesday 28th April 2020. The knowledge gathered thus far does indicate that the Legislature is able to conduct most of its activities through virtual means and this augurs well for the delivery of e-legislature, this being a strategic objective for the sixth political term.
On 23rd April 2020, the President unveiled a Risk Adjusted Strategy in respect of Covid-19 and informed of the level 4 stage which would commence on the 1st May 2020.
It is therefore important to stress that during the initial lockdown period, and at level 4 of the risk-adjusted strategy which commenced on the 1st May 2020, Legislatures and Parliament are regarded as essential services. Staff were informed that they remain available for business remotely and physically as and when called on. A policy on Covid-19 was passed to ensure that Staff and Members subscribe to the testing of temperatures and sanitization requirement of the legislature. Management was responsible for drawing workplans and ensuring staff that were working remotely were reporting and providing proof of service, where applicable.
The Legislature has considered business units that could continue to operate remotely with no negative impact on the work of the Legislature. Equally, the Legislature has also considered the option of allowing 1/3 of the legislature employees to physically return to work, however this option will only be utilized as a last recourse where working remotely is not possible or feasible.
Lastly, there are business units whose core function have been negatively affected by the restriction and are thus unable to perform their normal functions either remotely or within the office environment. The legislature has identified some business units whose functions cannot be executed at all under a restrictive period of risk adjusted strategy. Going forward, the legislature will review its business process to arrive at a permanent solution in this regard. This may include re-training and placement in other business units. In addition, the HR division is investigating support platforms to assist Members and Staff in adapting and coping with the new work environment, time management and soft skills that contribute to productivity.
We will continue sharing the weekly schedule of the legislature with you.
ISSUED BY THE KWAZULU-NATAL LEGISLATURE OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER
Nomusa Phungula – 071 851 0085/ 072 294 7237