DA chief whip Watty Watson. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
DA chief whip Watty Watson. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

IT WAS the poor attendance by African National Congress (ANC) members in the National Assembly on Thursday night which enabled the Democratic Alliance to delay the adoption of the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Friday.

If past practice is anything to go by the ANC will be checking its attendance register of MPs at the sitting against the apologies furnished, with disciplinary action possibly being taken against those who were absent without notice.

A vote on the controversial bill has been postponed to the next parliamentary session which commences on August 20.

DA chief whip Watty Watson said this was the first time during his tenure as chief whip that the DA had used this tactic of low numbers to stymie the passage of the bill. Many DA members absented themselves from the house when it came time to vote.

Mr Watson said that if the ANC wanted to use its majority to "bulldoze" decisions through the house despite the united opposition of minority parties, then it had to ensure it had the requisite numbers of MPs present.

He said MPs had known for about three weeks that there would be a late sitting on Thursday, the last day of the second session of Parliament, but there were hardly more than 120 of the ANC’s 266 members present during the debate.

The vote on the bill was put to the house on two occasions in a bid to reach a quorum of 201 votes but on both occasions there were not enough MPs present.

Mr Watson said the "DA had managed to prevent the bill being passed by walking out and exposing the ANC’s poor attendance in the sitting, thereby rendering the sitting inquorate".

"While we are pleased that this bad bill was prevented from being passed yesterday, it is of great concern that the ANC could not muster the necessary 201 of its 264 members to ensure their own bill was passed. The ANC was not able to ensure even half of its members were in this house for this important debate.

"It is a disgrace that the opposition has to be relied upon to make a quorum to pass legislation it disagrees with and that will harm South Africa."

Mr Watson said the DA would use the postponement of the vote until next term to push for the key amendments to the bill such as the inclusion of a requirement for strike ballots and an extension of the period in which temporary service workers could be employed.

The DA would also like to repeal a section in the law which allows majority unions and employers to agree on thresholds of representativeness for unions to gain organisational rights in a specific workplace or sector; the repeal of the section allowing for closed-shop agreements; and amendments to the section that allow for the extension of bargaining council agreements to parties that were not part of the bargaining process.