Official violation of the rights of the unemployed must end!

Eustace Davie is a Director of the Free Market Foundation. He is the author of the booklet Jobs for the Jobless, Special Exemption Certificates for the Unemployed, published by the Free Market Foundation. 

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This article was first published by Business Brief on 13 June 2023 

Official violation of the rights of the unemployed must end!

The fact that a South African individual is unemployed, is not well-educated, and has had difficulty in finding employment, does not mean that government officials are entitled to treat them with disrespect. All citizens who obey the laws, and treat their fellow citizens with respect, are not only entitled to be treated with equal respect but also to have their rights, as described in the South African Constitution, fully respected.
The constitution contains many provisions that were clearly included for the specific purpose of ensuring that the rights of individuals are to be protected.
Democratic values of human dignity and freedom
For instance, Section 7(1) of the Constitution “enshrines the right of all people of our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity and freedom”. Unemployment causes people to lose their dignity and has a negative effect on their lives. Denying them the right to bargain freely with a prospective employer takes away the right to end the indignity of unemployment. It also takes away the freedom of the individual.
Protecting, promoting, and fulfilling the rights in the Bill of Rights
Section 7(2) says that the state must “protect, promote, and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights”. This means that the government and all its agencies, should use the powers given them, to end unemployment
by taking away the laws and regulations that get in the way of the right to work.
The right to equality
Section 9(2) says the state must promote the achievement of equality and must take measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination. The Minimum Wage law disadvantages unemployed persons because it removes the jobseekers right to have the last say in a wage negotiation on conditions acceptable to the jobseeker.   
The state is not allowed to discriminate
Section 9(3) says that the state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone. The labour laws, including the Minimum Wage, discriminate against the unemployed by unfairly protecting the employed from competition from the unemployed and are therefore unconstitutional. Remove the unfair and unconstitutional Minimum Wage law, which would allow the unemployed to make their own decisions on what wages and conditions of employment they would be prepared to accept from an employer.

Job Seekers Exemption Certificate (JSEC)
If the JSEC rules were to be introduced, such as the following items, the job opportunities for the job seekers would open up and small employers would be their largest employers. 1. To be issued by local authorities 2. The introduction of a standardised employment agreement. For example: in the initial stages people who have been unemployed for longer than six months to have first option. 3. JSEC regulations must provide exemption to their employers from the labour laws in respect of the JSEC holder. 4. JSEC holders must be exempted from the problematic laws for at least 2 years. 5. Basic, simple employment agreements should be entered into between employer and employee. This gives a brief sketch of a change in approach that could make jobs available to substantially more people. Small businesses would be the most likely employers of JSEC’s holders.

Everyone has the right to have their dignity respected and protected
Section 10 of the Bill of Rights says that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected. True respect for the dignity of the unemployed can only be brought about by adopting laws that are specially designed for their protection and advancement. This could be done by exempting the unemployed from the laws and regulations that get in the way of their right to work. To show respect for the dignity of a group of people means recognising and dealing with the unique challenges that they face.
The unemployed are not suffering because they do not earn enough, but because they do not earn anything at all. Their dignity cannot be protected by Minimum Wage measures because these measures benefit only the employed. For the unemployed, Minimum Wage measures mean fewer jobs and fewer people hired for the jobs that are still available; they mean being denied the opportunity to enter the job market on their own terms.
Right to life – Section 11of the Bill of Rights
Everyone has the right to life. Unemployed persons may starve to death and have their health affected in other ways because they are being denied the right to work by the laws and regulations agreed to by Parliament – laws to protect the job security of the employed. These laws stop employers from employing workers who are prepared to work for wages and under conditions not approved by Parliament. The right to life must include the right to freely and lawfully employ your talents to sustain yourself and your family. This basic human right is not being protected by the Human Rights Commission.
Right to freedom and security –Section 12 (1)
Section 12(1) says that everyone has the right to freedom and security and both these rights are threatened by unemployment. A law that results in unemployment causes unemployed people to be “treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way” and infringes the provisions of section 12(1)(e). Such a law also takes away the individual’s “right to bodily and psychological integrity”.  Laws and regulations that stop people from using their hands, muscles, and brain power to earn an income to support themselves and their families cancels their section 12(2)(b) right “to security in and control over their body”.
A call to the people of South Africa – GIVE US BACK OUR DIGNITY
Representatives of unemployed people are not asking for handouts from government for the unemployed people of South Africa. They are asking for something much more valuable. It is captured in their motto, “Let Me Work”. What they are asking for does not take away anything from the people who already have jobs. The unemployed are asking for the JSEC to be introduced so that they can set their own wages and conditions of employment with employers. It will give unemployed people the right to make their own decisions about their own lives. It will reduce unemployment rapidly. It will help small businesses. It will increase production in the country. Most important of all, it will give back their dignity to millions of South Africans.

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