South African Government

Let's grow South Africa together

Workers Day 2012

1 May 2012

South Africa observes International Workers Day on 1 May as a public holiday. Workers' Day, also known as May Day, originated within the historical struggles of workers and their trade unions for solidarity between working people, and in their struggles to achieve fair employment standards.

This included the need to establish a culture of human and worker rights which are enshrined in international law and the national law of the countries aligned to the International Labour Organisation, of which South Africa is a member.

In South Africa, Workers Day has been officially observed since 1994. The government remains committed to ensure the welfare and good conditions of service for workers.

To achieve this, government has put in place progressive labour legislation and key programmes in line with the Constitution. Labour law prevents discrimination, including workplace discrimination.

Currently, the Department of Labour is in the process of amending the Labour Relations Act to deal with the increase in labour brokering and, in particular, with the abuses associated with the practice and the way in which it deprives many workers of basic protection under labour law.

  • The LRA, 1995 supports the primacy of collective agreements and emphasises the need for organised labour and business to regulate its relationship by entering into collective agreements.
  • Registered unions and employer organisations may establish bargaining councils, as statutory bodies established by the LRA, 1995, within a specific economic sector. They represent the centre piece of the bargaining system.
  • The replacement of the Conciliation Board by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) signals a shift from a highly adversarial model of relations to one based on promoting greater cooperation, industrial peace and social justice.
  • South Africa has established specialist labour courts. These courts exist side by side with traditional courts. The labour courts generally exercise exclusive jurisdiction over specialist labour matters. The Labour Court of South Africa has exclusive jurisdiction over all matters reserved for it under the LRA, 1995.

To achieve racial reconciliation, South Africa is addressing unemployment, inequality, ownership of companies and other socio-economic factors that are responsible for antagonism in our communities.

Read Government's messages for Workers' Day 2012.

Public holidays