Committee Report on the Millennium Development Goals

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Labour

30 May 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee considered and adopted its Millennium Development Goals Report. Members focused on the recommendations in the report and discussed the use of legal and illegal foreign workers instead of locals. Some Members argued that employers hired illegal foreign workers was because they were hard workers, and they were not unionised. Other Members pointed out that that foreign workers were not more hard working than locals. They were attractive to employers because they accepted lesser wages and usually worked longer hours. It was agreed that the Committee needed to engage with the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation and Home Affairs to address this matter. The Committee noted that there was a need to look at the Millennium Development Goals holistically rather than focus on foreign workers.

Meeting report

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report
The Chairperson tabled the report for consideration. He noted that Members should be familiar with the report as they had received it some time ago. He therefore advised them to focus on the recommendations and give their inputs.

An ANC Member observed that there were MDG’s identified for all departments, the Department of Labour had its own set, which were labour related. He recalled that in the previous week most the discussion centred on the issue of illegal foreign workers.

Mr G Boinamo (ANC) said that the reason that employers hired illegal foreign workers was because they were hard workers, and they were not unionised. In addition he criticised the fact that the country’s borders were porous and in some places the fences were literally collapsing.

Mr I Ollis (ANC) commented that unemployed illegal foreigners made use of the country’s social services and in some cases even resorted to crime. In addition, he highlighted that the MDG’s focused on HIV and poverty; they were about lifting people up, not about chasing foreigners.

The Chairperson said that the focus should not be on foreign workers. Some of those workers were hired through recruitment agencies because they had scarce skills. They had valid work permits that had been granted by the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA). Labour inspectors should report illegal foreign workers to the police. Employers were exploiting foreign workers, because they were not protected by law. Legal foreign workers should be paid equal wages with South African workers.

Mr N Nyekemba (ANC) said that the Committee need to engage the DoHA, because they were the ones that issued work permits, not the Department of Labour. South Africans could register with the Department of Labour, if they were unemployed. Employers were hiding illegal foreign workers so that they could exploit them.

Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) cautioned Members not to assume that the Department did not have legislation that dealt with foreign workers. The DoHA had very tight legislation but the Committee needed to engage with them listen to them and raise its concerns. She disagreed with Mr Boinamo’s assertion that foreign workers were more hard working than locals. They were attractive to employers because they accepted lesser wages and usually worked longer hours.

The Chairperson concurred with Ms Makhubela on the long working hours of foreign workers, especially those who worked for road construction companies.

Mr Ollis noted that the report should reflect the Committee’s response on the MDG’s. Also, he advised the Committee to engage the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation. Lastly, he stated that Illegal foreign workers were officially known as undocumented people. Undocumented people were unable to use services such as hospitals.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee Secretary should change some findings into recommendations. People were complaining in Limpopo about the use of illegal foreign workers, even for occupations such as welding. The private sector should rather employ locals before they considered foreigners. He added that ”one cannot feed the neighbours children while yours kids were hungry.”

Mr E Nyekemba (ANC) said that the issue of foreign workers had also been addressed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He then suggested the adoption of the report with recommendations as amended.

The report was adopted with amendments.

Mr Ollis advised that the Committee should look at the MDGs holistically rather than focus on foreign workers.

The meeting was adjourned.

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