Payment of ex-mine workers: Interdepartmental Task Team follow-up briefing; Sheltered Employment Services and fishing industry oversight visit: Department of Labour briefing on the Portfolio Committee's recommendations

This premium content has been made freely available

Employment and Labour

25 January 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Interdepartmental Task Team on mine workers briefed Members on progress made since the Committee’s meeting on 16 November 2010. An additional 125 payments had been made to ex-mineworkers to the value of R500 000. Challenges facing payment of ex-mineworkers were lack of resources and full time Interdepartmental Task Team staff; information on service time at the mines was not available; the last salary of the claimants was not available; and some of the claimants did not have a bank account.

Members asked how the Interdepartmental Task Team had assisted the ex-mineworkers in understanding the process of Unemployment Insurance Fund claims; if the Employment Bureau of Africa was indeed cooperating with the Interdepartmental Task Team; how many ex-mineworkers’ applications the Bureau had provided; and for a list of the claimant’s names. Members also asked how unclaimed money would be used after March 2011; what attempts had been made to address the challenges of human resources and finance; why the Department of Health’s verbal report on the figures for claimants and payments was different from those reflected in the written report; and why the report had not answered the written questions posed by the Committee in November 2010.

Sheltered Employment Factories responded to the Portfolio Committee’s recommendations following its oversight visit. It was established that contraventions to the Labour Act existed in the 12 factories. Sheltered Employment Factories was engaging with the National Treasury Technical Assistance Unit for assistance with technical expertise to conclude the second phase of the business case, which addressed the need for legal identity, permanent management structures, and free trade.

Members asked why their questions from the previous meeting had not been answered. These questions related to benefits for employees; the urgency of labour inspectors to attend to facilities; why labour inspectors did not consult with the workers; what corrective or punitive measures were in place; and layout of the transport system for people with disabilities. Members also asked for time frames for addressing the challenges; if the law prohibited selling of Sheltered Employment Factories goods to private companies and if legislation should be changed in order to improve on the success of Sheltered Employment Factories; and when the R10 million owed by national and provincial governments would be collected.

The Department of Labour had compiled no formal written report on the issues that the Portfolio Committee had raised during its oversight visit to the fishing industry. The Committee asked for a detailed report and presentation to the Committee within five working days. The Acting Director-General said that the Chief Inspector and Chief of Operations in the Western Cape would attend the meeting the following week.

Meeting report

Progress Report on Payment of Ex-Mineworkers
Mr Boas Seruwe, Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Commissioner, Department of Labour (DOL), and Chairperson of Interdepartmental Task Team (ITT) said that in December 2007 a motion was tabled at the National Assembly for the DOL to establish an ad hoc ITT consisting of the Department of Health (DOH), the DOL, the then Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) and the National Treasury to look into concerns of the ex-mineworkers Union.

The former Minister of Labour, Ms Membathisi Mdladlana, had addressed the mineworkers and media to bring claimants forward to claim their available payment benefits and had made contact with the Employment Bureau of Africa (TEBA). Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) and the Chamber of Mines had come on board with information to facilitate payments and DOL was awaiting TEBA’s response. Ex-mineworkers had started to receive payments from the DOH and the DOL’s UIF. Challenges facing payment of ex-mineworkers were: lack of resources – DOL was paying for the activities of the ITT but no budget had been allocated towards it; and human Resources – lack of full time ITT staff.

Phase 1 had been completed with 2 100 applicants requiring verification and a total of 567 payments to the value of R2.5 million had been paid to ex-mineworkers. In November 2010, 442 ex-mineworkers had been paid and since that time, an additional 125 ex-mineworkers had been paid.

Challenges to the process were that information on service time in the mine was not available; the last salary of the claimants was not available; and some of the claimants did not have a bank account.

The Rand Mutual Assurance Company Limited (RMA) had received a list of 18569 claimants from ex-mineworkers of which only 20 were registered and finalized. RMA welcomed further lists and would search for further benefits for ex-mineworkers.

Phase 2, which involved new applications being submitted to UIF Head Office, had been initiated. For criteria for UIF payment to ex-mineworkers - see page 15 and 16 of the report.

Ms Thembisa Khaka, Compensation Commissioner for Occupational Diseases (CCOD); DOH) added that since 16 November 2010, the DOH had made 42 payments; 40 additional applications had been opened; and 74 applications were being processed. There were no new applications.

Discussion

Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked how the ITT had assisted the ex-mineworkers with claiming of UIF, as the majority of them lived in rural areas and did not know the process for claiming UIF.

Mr F Maserumule (ANC) encouraged the ITT to persist with finding information on ex-mineworkers through local sources in remote areas. (The local source of information mentioned by the Member was inaudible.)

Mr E Nyekembe (ANC) said that not all issues raised in the previous meeting were addressed by the ITT. He was expecting that the ITT would address the implementation of communication structures for accessing ex-mineworkers in the rural areas which was agreed upon with the former Director-General. He asked how if TEBA was indeed cooperating with the ITT and how many ex-mineworkers’ applications TEBA had provided to ITT in order for payments to be fast-tracked. He also asked the CCOD how unclaimed money would be used after March 2011, given that its target was to finalise the process by the end of the financial year. Finally, he asked what attempts had been made to recruit temporary staff and address the challenges of human resources and finance, which had repeatedly recurred since 2009. The issues of ex-mineworkers could not persist indefinitely. The only known attempt by the ITT to deal with challenges was a letter to the Office of the Deputy President. If the ITT could not do the job, the Committee would ensure that the job was done.

Mr I Ollis (DA) commended the ITT for the R500 000 disbursement to claimants in December 2010 and January 2011. However, nothing in the report responded to the practical suggestions regarding human resources and finance offered by the Committee at the November 2010 meeting, nor was there any sign that the concerns of the Committee had been forwarded to relevant authorities. He asked for a report on how the DOL would find funding and staff for the ITT and also to explain why the DOH’s verbal report on the figures for claimants and payments was different to those reflected in the written report provided to the Committee one week earlier.
 
The Chairperson agreed with the Members that the report had not answered questions previously posed by the Committee. He asked the DOL to give a list of the claimant’s names - ex-mineworkers from the rural Eastern Cape had been recruited through traditional authorities and needed assistance. He requested that the Acting Director-General, as head of DOL, take ownership of all the answers given and said that, going forward, communication would not be directed to the ITT, but to the Acting Director-General.

Mr Sam Morotoba, Acting Director-General; Department of Labour, said that he accepted responsibility and would convey the frustrations and concerns of the Committee to high levels of the respective Departments, including RMA and the trade unions concerned. Attendance at ITT meetings had been a problem. An updated interim report on the progress and implementation of the recommendations made in November 2010 would be compiled and, after finalisation of the report, key recommendations would be tracked.

The Chairperson concluded that the matter should have been finalised in February 2011 and that the Committee would assist with intervention where there was non-cooperation by any party. Regular briefing was essential for progress.
Sheltered Employment Factories Oversight Visit
Mr Silumko Nondwangu, Chief Executive Officer: Sheltered Employment Factories, DOL, said that subsequent to the Committee’s oversight visits to two of the 12 factories - Epping and Ndabeni in the Western Cape - it was established that both factories were contravening the Labour Relations Act. Management had been asked to provide specific answers to the questions asked by the Committee. SEF believed that without knowledge of the historical background of the factories, the root cause of the problems could not necessarily be addressed. (see document for SEF history).

SEFs were created in 1943 for rehabilitation of war veterans, predominantly white serviceman, who could not be incorporated into mainstream employment. Post 1994 there had been attempts to transform the factories in terms of racial representation, conditions of employment and compliance with legislation. During this time, ordering of goods by Government declined to 60% and the number of SEF employees with disabilities decreased from 3 000 to 976. The national and provincial government departments owed R10 million to the factories. These factors did not support growth and compliance with the Employment Equity Act.

The first phase of the Business Case had involved a situational analysis of South African people with disabilities, of working conditions and the international dimension. The second phase addressed the need for legal identity, permanent management structures, and free trade. SEF was engaging with the National Treasury Technical Assistance Unit for assistance with technical expertise to conclude the second phase of the Business Case to ultimately convert the factories into trading entities.

Discussion

Mr Ollis said that it appeared that Government had forgotten about the SEFs. The DOL had been running the SEFs for 17 years and still there was no legal entity, the racial mix had not been adjusted and SEF had battled to find outside clients. The problem was compounded by the fact that Government was not paying the SEFs. He asked if the law prohibited selling of goods to private companies and if legislation should be changed in order to improve on the success of SEFs.

Mr Nyekembe asked for a time frame for the DOL’s response to challenges identified during the oversight visits,  the layout of the transport system and the mode of transport for people with disabilities and particularly for the collection of the R10 million owed by national and provincial governments. In its oversight visits, the Committee recognized that the problems could not all be addressed by the DOL and that DOL should engage with the Department of Public Works, the Department of Social Development and National Treasury.

Mr B Manamela (ANC) said that for whatever reason 2 000 jobs had been lost, the DOL should be encouraged to facilitate the recruitment of 2 000 more people in line with the Government strategy to create jobs in a non-racial workplace and to include skills training of veterans from Umkhonto we Sizwe ["Spear of the Nation"] (MK) and the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA). As oversight, the Committee would need to monitor the progress made and receive reports from the factories on changes that had occurred as a result of the DOL strategy.

The Chairperson said that the purpose of the meeting was to get answers from the set of written questions posed to the DOL. The following questions had not been properly answered:

-What the benefits were for employees, specifically medical aid and housing, and why there were different pension funds.

-What DOL was doing to ensure that labour inspectors spoke to workers and not only to management.
 
-Why it had taken 17 years to implement changes - labour inspectors urgently needed to attend to the facilities.
 
- What corrective or punitive measures were in place.

The Committee would engage on the Auditor-General’s report and the DOL’s Annual Performance Plan before approving the budget. Members were committed to assist the DOL and the bar would be raised in terms of the relationship with the DOL.

Mr Morotoba said that in terms of the Fishing Sector, no formal report had been compiled and the chief director concerned, who could not attend the meeting, had been taken to task over the matter. Going forward, this would not happen. A report had been sent to head office on the issues that were raised by the Committee during its oversight visit to the fishing industry.
Mr Manamela suggested that the Committee receive the report and engage on it before interacting with DOL.

Mr Nyekembe agreed with Mr Manamela. The areas of inspection and issues in the oversight report of November 2010 were not only applicable to SEF, but also to the five fishing factories that were visited. He asked who had received the report at head office and why there was no prepared presentation in relation to the report. With the Chairperson’s permission, he requested a response by Friday.

The Chairperson said that Committee was expecting answers to be presented that day. The report on the oversight visits to the fishing factories were depressing and the matter was urgent. Workers’ rights and safe working conditions were human rights and yet were not in place. He asked Mr Morotoba to give a detailed report and present to the Committee within five working days on DOL’s response to the report and the strategy for addressing the concerns.

Mr Morotoba accepted the recommendations of the Committee and requested time be allocated for a presentation the following week. Mr Morotoba said that the Chief Inspector and Chief of Operations in the Western Cape would attend the meeting the following week so that specific issues could be addressed.

In closing, the Chairperson added that the issue of accommodating Military Veterans should be included in the report.

The meeting was adjourned.

Share this page: