Department of Labour on Issues emanating from the State of the Nation Address

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Employment and Labour

15 February 2010
Chairperson: Ms L Yengeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with the Department of Labour to hear what its responses were to issues affecting it arising from the President’s recent State of the Nation Address. In its presentation the Department said that its primary purpose was the regulation of the labour market. This was in addition to assisting unemployed people in gaining access to the job market. To this end it had 125 Labour Centres across the country as well as 20 Mobile Units which accessed the more remote areas.

Of the Government’s key priorities, the Department focussed strongly on health and jobs. Four of the Government Outcomes related to the Department’s mandate. These were: Live long and healthy lives, Ensure decent employment for people by facilitating and contributing to inclusive economic growth, Create a better Africa and a better world, and A public sector capacity that is efficient, effective and worthy of a developmental state.

In moving towards strengthening its institutional capabilities, the Department had focused on filling its vacancies within six months of a post being made vacant. It had also looked at increasing the capacity and visibility of its inspectors as well as phasing in new organisational structure, in line with international best practice. In addition, it had introduced the Director-General’s Service Line in order to cater to specific labour enquiries, improve service delivery to its clients as well as monitor the performance of individual labour centres.

Members noted the proposed Multi-Purpose Portal was a good idea, though some questioned how the Department would ensure participation from both companies and unemployed people. What was the Department doing to improve conditions for people with disabilities at the workplace? Why was the Department focusing mainly on multinationals and JSE-listed companies and not also on smaller businesses? The Committee asked whether the Department intended to interact with Trade Unions and what the definition of ‘decent work’ was.

Meeting report

Department of Labour (DoL) submission
Mr Jimmy Manyi, Director-General, DoL, explained that the Department’s purpose was to regulate the labour market, assist in the integration of the unemployed into the labour market, to ensure compliance through enforcement of all labour legislation and to provide protection to the unemployed and the injured.

In addition to the Department’s 125 Labour Centres across the country, it also utilised 20 Mobile Units in order to access more remote areas. It also participated in 72 of the 139 Thusong Centres. Of the Government’s key priorities, the Department focused strongly on health and jobs.

Four of the Government Outcomes related to the Department’s mandate. These were: Live long and healthy lives, Ensure decent employment for people by facilitating and contributing to inclusive economic growth, Create a better Africa and a better world, and A public sector capacity that is efficient, effective and worthy of a developmental state.

In terms of it Public Employment Services (PES) programme, it was looking at finalising the Public Employment Service Policy Bill by March 2010. This Bill would affect matters related to its Training Lay-Off Scheme, its multi-purpose portal as well as sheltered employment for people with disabilities. The Multi-Purpose Portal would be an IT-driven initiative which would assist job-seekers in finding employment. This would be one by having employers register their vacancies and job-seekers register their details, with the Department finding appropriate employment for these job-seekers based on this data. If however the job-seeker refused the job s/he had been found by the Department, it reserved the right to ‘turn off the taps’. The Department would then also be able to provide Mayors with information regarding how many unemployed people there were in those particular areas. The Department was also looking at improving the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits as well as supporting investment job creation projects such as the IDC.

In terms of the Compensation Fund, the Department was aiming to implement the recommendations of the Auditor-General, improve its audit opinion and implement its turnaround strategy. Its Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) programme would include monthly blitz inspections. The blitz inspections would focus on targeted areas (affecting mostly vulnerable people such as farm workers, mine workers etc) in order to improve compliance. The programme would also focus on the professionalisation of inspectors, which, entailed inspectors possessing the necessary knowledge of the sector in which they conduct inspections. The Department, however, faced a challenge in this regard as remuneration here needed to match the requisite skills/ qualification levels.

The Department had centralised all its law-making capabilities in order to ensure that all its related legislation was enforced. Proposed amendment Bills included the Labour Relations Act (dealing with labour brokering, sub-contracting and outsourcing), the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (sectoral determinations and enforcement) and the Employment Equity Act (strengthening enforcement, reducing reaction times and D-G Reviews focusing on JSE-listed companies and multi-nationals).

In moving towards strengthening its institutional capabilities, the Department had focused on filling its vacancies within six months of a post being made vacant. It had also looked at increasing the capacity and visibility of its inspectors as well as phasing in new organisational structure, in line with international best practice. In addition, it had introduced the Director-General’s Service Line in order to cater to specific labour enquiries, improve service delivery to its clients as well as monitor the performance of individual labour centres. The Department would be tabling its Strategic Plan for the period 2010 – 2011 on 2 March 2010.

Discussion
Mr W Madisha (Cope) asked how the Department planned to evaluate its inspectors. How will inspections be carried out at schools?

Ms Siyanda Zondeki, Deputy Director-General: Service Delivery, DoL, replied that inspectors had performance agreements. However, as these were focused more on quantity of inspections done, the focus had since shifted to quality of inspections done. The programme also focussed largely on vulnerable sectors in order to ensure compliance with Labour legislation. Inspections in schools were part of the Department’s blitz inspection initiative.

Ms F Khumalo (ANC) asked what measures would be put in place to ensure that job-seekers registered on the Multi-Purpose portal. Was the Department sending inspectors to the taxi industry?

Mr Sam Morothoba, Deputy Director-General: Public Employment Services, DoL, replied that there would be a strong reliance on Information Technology (cellphones etc…). The Department had planned on launching a number of campaigns aimed at getting companies to register their vacancies on the portal.

Ms Zondeki added that the Department had not been present in this sector as it had to prioritise the safety of its inspectors. The sector was however targeted as part of its blitz inspection programme.

Ms A Rantsolase (ANC) asked what the Department was doing to improve conditions for people with disabilities at the workplace? What was done to increase employment of people with disabilities? What was the Department’s strategic plan in terms of its Compensation Fund? Why was the Department focusing mainly on multinationals and JSE-listed companies and not also on smaller businesses?

Ms Zondeki answered that this issue was looked at as part of general inspections. The Department, however, needed to go further than this by ensuring that appointments made in this regard spoke to substantive compliance with the Employment Equity Act.

Mr Manyi added that the only challenge with the Compensation Fund would lie in teething problems related to the implementation of the systems. As there were limited resources and the Department was looking to make an impact in this regard, it chose to target bigger companies and corporations first.

Mr I Ollis (DA) asked how the Department was looking at increasing the number of youth entering learnerships. How many people had the Department trained through its Training Lay-Off programme? Was the Department planning on competing with employment agencies through its Multi-Purpose Portal?

Mr Morothoba replied that the only role left for the Department in this regard was referral, career guidance and information dissemination. The Department had approximately 3 000 people from five different companies. The President had stipulated that this programme would continue. It had been in discussion with some of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) social partners in trying to ascertain how best to market the programme as well as deal with challenges it faced. In relation to the portal, there were a number of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions that outlined the role of Government in this regard.

Mr A Louw (DA) asked whether ‘closing of the taps’ to workers who chose not to accept the employment position given to them through the Portal did not infringe on their rights?

Mr Morotoba replied that, although the issue of workers’ rights was considered, the Department could not ignore that fact that there were positions available that could be filled by South Africans with the necessary skills.

Mr Manyi added that the Department would not force people into work they did not want to do.

Mr E Nyekemba (ANC) asked how the Department intended to interact with Trade Unions.

Mr Manyi replied that the unions were allowed in all the Department’s meetings. This had been formalised in a circular which had been sent out to all the unions.

Mr A Alberts (FF+) asked what the Department had prioritised training for prospective entrepreneurs. What was the definition for sheltered employment? The Department should, in its amendments to the Employment Equity Act, consider granting minorities (especially those born post-1994) greater access to the job market.

Mr Morotoba said that the Department believed in the training of young entrepreneurs. All of its programmes – as well as funding for this purpose – had, however, been transferred to the National Youth Development Agency.

Mr Manyi added that the law required equitable representation. Since this had not as yet been achieved, it would go against current legislation to consider this.

The Chairperson asked what the definition of ‘decent work’ was. Was its plan of filling vacancies within six months realistic? Were there Department employees in the Thusong centres?

Mr Manyi replied that decent work was an ILO concept, the definition of which spoke to four areas: rate of pay, statutory deductions, collective bargaining and health and safety. The Department was trying to set a performance standard with the six-month limit. There were Department representatives in Thusong centres.

The meeting was adjourned.

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