On Monday 26 August, The Competition Commission hosted ‘A Dialogue with Business and Labour’ from a male perspective only. Speakers lacked direction, topic cohesion and the Commission showed no desire for an open discussion on women, vulnerability and labour market inequality.
The focus was on product and consumer markets, virtually nothing on the the grotesque labour market shaping our reality as the most unequal society in the world.
No Champions Today
Commissioner Bonakele laced his flat, uninspiring speech with monopoly tales and failed to provide any evidence of stimulating labour market competition and preventing collusive conduct.
Out of frustration, I called out during his speech and asked ‘what have you done for labour?’
Competition Commission staff occupied the front row and I was immediately behind them. They all snickered at the question, no doubt becuase they knew there was nothing to say and wanted to see their boss squirm, which he did.
He responded awkwardly, mumbling something like ‘Ah yes hahaha these people always want to know what we did for them hahahah’.
The front row, like me, were probably wondering how he would swing it. He fumbled on about monopolies and mergers, obviously trying to use the time to think of what to say about labour.
He eventually retrieved a nugget from his memory, looked at me and shakily said something about how labour was about to be discussed and I would be happy.
There was No Happy Spot
I leaned forward in my seat to mutter right back at him
I want to hear about labour market dominance and monopsony power!
Barely able to breathe, hanging on every word, I waited for a wonderful story of how they drove labour market competition and successfully pushed wages up to prevent escalating inequality.
Without the Competition Commission driving a fair labour market competition, PaySlipBanSA faces massive odds. The Commission can change unfair labour market patterns by regulating recruitment practices in terms of competition and economic rights.
The Commission can change labour market patterns by regulating recruitment practices in terms of competition and economic rights.
In violation of legislation,
the Commissions contempt for the economy’s most important asset – labour, is palpable.
The only statement, with limited value, that he made, was to say they protect jobs during mergers.
Is that it? ‘We protect jobs during mergers.’
Am I just being ‘female’ when I declare I was left unsatisfied, unfulfilled, with a sense of being robbed of a joyous policy moment?
Unfortunately there was no engagement allowed and I understood I’d already overstepped their boundaries of participation.
The front row was shifting uncomfortably as they knew he hadn’t given any real answers and failed in front of an audience. I was giggling at a comment left on their YouTube channel and realised one didn’t need to say much, people were already tuned in and talking.
It would have been great to have heard if wages went up, went down or remained the same after the merger. Worker wages are not freely discussed as the Commission appears loyal to a neo-liberal, not pro-poor policy perspective. The Commission endorses an economic environment restraining worker rights and economic justice.
Men talking profit economics
The mano-logue focused on capitalist driven interests in support of business development. While they acknowledged all workers are not entrepreneurs, the wage protections required by workers as illustrated by the Marikana Massacre were never raised.
It appears most men with a platform, struggle with the hard, painful points connecting the backbone of our ailing economy. Workers are paid too little.
Inequality is viciously patterned because women and blacks are priced lower and it’s not in the interests of these privileged, heard men, to drive the conversation in the direction of mass exploitation and women.
Because, you see, their cookie will crumble.
Women who protest against employer monopsony power (unfair power like a monopoly), are treated with hostility and contempt.
As a result of the Competition’s maleficence and biased, neo-liberal labour market conduct, we started #PaySlipBanSA.
It’s clear our entire system lacks pro-poor policy and accountability for inequality
After sending the Commission emails, lodging formal complaints and being ignored yet threatened by them on social media, we understood that something concrete had to be done to expose labour market exploitation.
Last year we submitted a complaint to the Public Protector who opened a case to investigate the Competition Commission. The case was mysteriously dropped after 2 months and we were informed that we had to lodge a complaint against the Competition Commission at the Competition Commission.
But we did that before going to the PP.
PaySlipbanSA is about not giving up our humanity and being treated as labour market slaves.
We understand the injustice faced by ordinary citizens across our rainbow nation, but are painfully reminded daily of the worst injustices continuing against women and black people.
Poverty is on the rise againBonakele
With all due respect to Commissioner Bonakele, when did poverty stop rising? Given that the Commission has lawyers and economists at their behest, why can’t they be more specific about how poverty must be deconstructed in labour markets?
Can Competition Policy contribute to turning this around?Bonakele
Ask a Woman, Bonakele
To begin, the Commission should be using the following two reference points:
1. S23.1 Constitution ‘everybody entitled to fair labour practice’
2. Competition Act: Fair economic practice, no collusion in markets, equal rights to pursue better economic circumstance
Anti-competition Market Conditions
Unfair information advantages are enjoyed by employers and recruiters, this is called information asymmetry. Information is power, the more you know about what an employer is willing to pay, the harder you can negotiate for a fair deal.
When the employer knows more about pay than you, they have the information advantage and balance of power.
Balance is symmetry, everything is even. Asymmetry is when the scale is one sided.
Recruitment must be regulated and fall in line with our Constitutional rights and Competition Law in order to balance the power between workers and employers. We must shift the following labour market conditions in order to address poverty and inequality:
- Employers want to control labour market power and prevent unionisation, this is called monopsony power. Most of us only hear about monopolies which is about products and consumers, monopsony is about workers.
2. During recruitment, employers and recruiters apply 3 specific information advantages prior to wage negotiation:
a. Job adverts omit a pay range. Applicants apply without knowing the employer’s offer. (information asymmetry)
b. Without being upfront about employers offers, recruiters ask applicants about pay expectations, usually as selection criteria to attend an interview (information asymmetry again )
c. Employers and recruiters demand payslips or ‘cost to company’ which constitute rival employer competitive, privileged information about their compensation and benefits. To poach or price-fix pay? If employers agree to share, are they competing for talent or colluding? This act violates the Constitution and Competition Law, it’s unfair on workers and anti-competitive,collusive conduct among employers.
When Commissioner Bonakele stated his question and failed to provide a framework, it was immediately evident that he was out of his depth. He failed to draw on any of the current, international studies that abound, just google ‘monopsony power’ and see for yourself!
We’ve only published a tiny amount of that research here, check it out!
I felt pity for Bonakele.
From organising the event to programming. From disappointed discussions between the 3 production houses unsure about their payments, to the rude and biased towards women conduct from the chair, Hardin Ratshisusu, a deputy commissioner who can’t be trusted to serve the public impartially.
Leaders count on teams and must lead from the front.
Being placed in a position where you cannot trust your team to perform the correct research, provide informed policy direction and ensure your speech spans the entire topic, life can, well…. be a real bitch. (Please allow me some license, it being Women’s Month! <kiss kiss>)
Back to Team CompCom
When the floor was invited to pose questions, my hand shamelessly shot up like a missile on take-off. Men soon followed, I scanned the room and saw I was the only woman who had appeared to be recognised with a question.
Hardin immediately stated they would start questions on the oppposite side of the male-only group…..hey sure, it’s only Woman’s Month and this is the sexist treatment we women activists are familiar with!
When the mike eventually came to me, the deputy Commissioner urged me to be quick while never imposing restrictions on the men who spoke longer. Even while I was framing my question, he glared at me to the point where I felt the need to reassure him I was finishing.
I was the only person who received this treatment, the only person speaking for the vulnerable and equality – yet confined by men.
During lunch, I went to his table as my goal was to engage meaningfully, not drive division. My question hadn’t been answered, I had purposefully measured what was asked in order not to ‘ruffle’ egos at the Commission. As I sat down, the deputy told me not to sit, since I thought he was joking, I laughed and sat anyway. (Catch our question at 3:22:53)
To my humiliation, he loudly stated that he refused to sit at a table with me as he didn’t like me and found me to be rude. In front of other guests and a speaker, he insisted I leave or he would. Feeling degraded for trying to engage as one professional to another at a public event, I told him he’s the man, as he stood to leave.
As an activist woman, a former teacher, development economist provocateur, I am compelled to stand up and use my voice appropriately and according to circumstance.
I was there to be participate in what I hoped would be an inclusive discussion, it was everything but that. My experience was an agonising reminder of what others face daily.
I can walk away from a sexist, exclusionary Commission and vow ‘no more’, but most labour market millions have no choices, they are held hostage through low pay, adverse employment conditions and poverty.
As a former teacher I want to say that you believe in the future or you wouldn’t teach. We all thrive on hope, dreams and honesty.
This woman won’t go quietly into the night
Please help us advocate and litigate. Your R50 can change this from unfair to fair.
If you don’t have R50 bucks, sign our petition and say something! Get your friends, family and facebook connections involved today!