Labour centres: Department of Labour briefing

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Labour

15 November 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC) (Acting) and Mr M Sibande (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Labour briefed Members on its fact finding visits and discussions with various stakeholders. Various problems in the Department ranged from low morale amongst staff members, human resource problems, as well as problems with labour law. Major challenges to professionalising, skilling, and correctly tooling and equipping the inspectorate division of the Department were highlighted. Many provinces worked in different ways, and standardising their work and organograms was a priority. As in all Departments, budget allocation was seen as a challenge. Information technology problems stemming from the failed interaction with Siemens were discussed.

Access to labour centres was repeatedly cited by Members as a problem. The Department was urged to address this, and to possibly look at establishing mobile labour centres. The contentious issue of Musina and undocumented foreigners from north of the Limpopo was raised. It was noted that this was a problem for many government Departments, notably the Department of Home Affairs. Members acknowledged that the Department had made significant strides forward in recent years. However there were real problems that needed to be addressed to enable services to be delivered to those who needed them.

Meeting report

Labour centres: Department of Labour briefing
Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko, Director-General, Department of Labour, noted that visits were undertaken countrywide for fact-finding between 07 July and 05 September 2011. Objectives for these visits were broadly to assess the current services provided by the Department, the extent of the demand of such services and the major challenges faced by the Department in discharging its mandate and servicing its clients.

The report would be used to address four main areas:

As a tool for disseminating information.
Providing a comparative analysis of different scenarios in different provinces.
Galvanising stakeholders to assist in building a compelling case based on fact for more budget allocation for the Department.
Providing a baseline for future planning in the Department.

The methodology and target group of these visits, as well as the specific information sets that were reviewed in the provinces were outlined.

Challenges identified were identified as:

Budget allocated to the Department. There were acute shortages, for example, many inspectors were unable to adequately complete their work due to not having laptops and vehicles.
Labour law needed to be reviewed.
Professionalisation, especially of the inspectorate division, needed to be fast tracked, and the training of inspectors was necessary to keep abreast with new developments in industry.
Labour broking was challenging and enforcement capacity needed to be strengthened.
The Musina and areas north of the Limpopo posed a challenge to enforcement in inspection capacities in the Department.

Other challenges and issues identified were:

The Public Employment Services (PES) Bill needed to be fast tracked to be able to register employers to register vacancies with the Department.
PES guidelines, where there was a need to fast track the development of guidelines to clarify rules of engagement with stakeholders.
Employment Services for South Africa (ESSA) system, where there was a need to overhaul the system for seamless registration of job seekers and matching to job opportunities.
Unrealistic targets had been given to provincial departments.
The Compensation Fund had noted decentralisation, where there was a need for more processing points.
There was poor support, guidance and communication by the Compensation Fund Head Office. There was inadequate office accommodation and there were too few service delivery points throughout the provinces to adequately administer the Compensation Fund.

Significant problems in human resources included: inconsistent allocation of human resources throughout the provinces, problems with job grading, relaxation of qualifications during recruitment and selection processes, and poor and subjective administration of performance management policies by managers, especially related to grievance and disciplinary procedures. Additionally, human resource providers to the Department had been accused of charging exorbitant fees. Equity targets, especially at senior management levels were also seen as a challenge.

Other problems in human resources included issues with staff training, equity targets especially at senior management levels, as well as issues related to review of delegations of authority in the provinces.

Regional manager issues centred on budget allocation, lack of inspection tools such as vehicles, job grading and a low staff morale due to constantly having to do more with less.

Organised labour had raised significant issues related to the Departmental Bargaining Chamber, the antagonistic relationships between the Department and organised labour, as well as allegations levelled such as nepotism, fraud, and financial mismanagement, amongst others.

Organised labour had also raised the issues of fiscal dumping and the abuse of performance management systems for personal interests.

Organised business had expressed the desire to work closely with the Department to realise Government objectives.

Organised labour was particularly worried about the growing exploitation of workers and a disregard of labour laws by some farmers in South Africa.

Employment had decreased overall. However employment by Government was up by 6.2%. Unemployment was currently at 25%. The public sector accounted for all job creation in the economy for 2011 as a whole.

Department's recommendations
Mr Nhleko outlined the Department’s overall recommendations as a result of these provincial visits. They were primarily that the response needed to be organised and systematic.

Provinces needed to be reorganised to respond to the unique economic realities of each different province.

Value for money exercises were required to unlock funds to address service delivery challenges.

Also, there needed to be efficient contract management for all contracts, as well as efficient utilisation of human resources.

There was a need to build capacity for the enforcement of labour legislation as well as a need to build efficient capacity for work seeker registration, job matching and job placements.

Information technology (IT) systems needed to be improved and integrated.

The Department had a strategic plan which needed to reflect some of the challenges cited in the report as well as interventions required to address those challenges. This strategic plan recognised the need to invest more in the creation of long-term public assets, infrastructure and job-creating assets and less in goods and services.

Mr Nhleko concluded by noting that the Department had a dedicated and hard-working workforce. However there were serious problems with low staff morale in most areas of the country. This was a result of abnormal and differing workloads across provinces, allegations of salary discrepancies, and grade structures that had no clear organisational backing.

Overall recommendations included:

1. Conducting an organisational structure review;
2. Reorganising provinces so that they could respond to the economic realities therein;
3. Undertaking a value for money exercise to unlock funds to address service delivery challenges of the Department of Labour;
4. Redirecting funds towards the core business of the Department of Labour;
5. Efficient management of contracts; and
6. Efficient management of all human resources.

Discussion
Co-Chairperson Nchabeleng, thanked the Department for its thorough and honest report. The work of the Committee was made easier by the frank admissions contained in it.

Mr F Maserumule (ANC) noted that South African towns had been ridiculously planned and gave the example of Groblersdal. Labour centres and constituency offices were difficult to access for ordinary workers, especially those with disabilities.

Mr Nhleko noted that the location of labour centres was a problem, but it was being dealt with.

Ms Caroline Mutloane, Chief Operating Officer, Department of Labour, added that every aspect of service delivery, claims and so on were being researched together with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). This research would be released by the end of 2012.

Co-Chairperson Sibande noted that Mpumalanga needed to be reorganised like Limpopo and the Eastern Cape would be reorganised.

Mr Nhleko replied that provinces differed structurally. Uniformity and human resource allocation was something that was being looked at as part of that process. This exercise would stand on two legs. Support and operations were being investigation as part of a ‘two-legged’ vision.

Co-Chairperson Sibande commented on Musina, and said that there needed to be interdepartmental meetings to deal with the issue of gangsters who brought foreigners into the country.

Mr Nhleko noted that other governmental agencies needed to be looked at when dealing with these issues. Regarding Musina specifically, research was being undertaken and the report was expected soon. There were other places in South Africa that were similarly affected by foreigners in terms of labour issues. At this stage, it was difficult to pronounce firmly on the situation in Musina.

Co-Chairperson Sibande noted that there was a concern surrounding employees engaging in fraudulent and negligent activities in their local centres and constituency offices.

Co-Chairperson Sibande wanted to know what the training programme was for inspectors. How was the morale of employees being boosted?

Mr Nhleko replied that a task team had been established to look at human resource issues, of which training was a part. As part of the ongoing review, training and morale, as well as reconfiguration of labour centres, were taking place.

Co-Chairperson Sibande wanted to know what measured were being undertaken to fill the unfilled vacancies in the Department.

Mr Nhleko noted that the vacancy rate currently stood at 7.5% which was comparatively low. Key positions needed to be filled.

Co-Chairperson Sibande commented that the Musina matter was related to other Departments and asked Members to confine their questions and comments to issues raised in the presentation.

Mr Z Mlenzana (COPE, Eastern Cape) encouraged the Department to concentrate on Occupational Health and Safety projects, especially in schools and hospitals.

Mr Mlenzana commented on human resource deployment and registration of work seekers. The example of Eskom was raised with regard to the employment of non-South Africans.

Mr Mlenzana brought up the R1.9 billion that had been set aside to assist provinces. A similar amount was put aside to contract Siemens to correct IT functions previously. What plans were in place that would avoid the previous problems with the contract with Siemens?

Mr Mlenzana remarked that the morale of Western Cape employees was low. What plans were there to boost these employees’ morale?

Co-Chairperson Sibande noted that Siemens had commented that the Department had not given the the correct details and guidance for the aforementioned project. The Department had not responded to Siemens’ allegations, as well as matters of fraud and double claims. The Department also did not have the capacity to investigate these issues and issues such as these should be passed on to the correct institutions such as the police services.

Mr Nhleko answered that this contract had always been a problem in the Department. The Department was definitely weak in the area of contract management and was an area being addressed.

Mr H Groenewald (DA, North West) wanted to know whether there was a cut off date for reviewing bills and labour law.

Mr Nhleko noted that there was a process of social dialogue that needed to be undertaken. The period was difficult to predict. Mr Nhleko hoped that there would be clear direction by the end of 2011, but he could not be certain.

Mr Groenewald wanted information on cross-border migration and what was being done to address this issue.

A point of order was raised by Mr Mlenzana.

Co-Chairperson Sibande noted Mr Mlenzana’s point of order, but allowed Mr Groenewald to continue.

Mr Groenewald continued and commented that cross-border migration was a problem, which, in conjunction with the Department of Home Affairs, needed to be addressed.

Mr Groenewald added that he also felt that staff morale was a problem, and that district offices were not managed and administered adequately, especially in the Western Cape. Offices were not user-friendly and there were few signs to help clients. There were also long queues that needed to be managed better.

Ms Mutloane added that people were relocated to alleviate pressure on clients and employees.

Ms Mutloane added that the box of identity (ID) documents mentioned by Members in the Western Cape had been dealt with. People had been contacted where possible to enable the return of those documents.

Ms Mutloane added that there was a major signage project. In the meantime typed notices were being put up in all relevant offices. All labour centres and provincial offices had registers and action was being taken as a result of interminable absenteeism. Ms Mutloane was unaware of a problem of persistent absenteeism.

Mr Nhleko commented that labour centres were in certain places out of necessity, and that they were often inadequate and not fit for purpose. Those infrastructure problems were real problems, but together with the Department of Public Works, were being addressed.

Mr Groenewald wanted information on the backlogs, especially the backlogs of over a decade in KwaZulu- Natal as well as in other provinces.

Mr Groenewald commented on visiting points, especially in his province, the North-West, where there were only 20 visiting points. Other provinces had similar problems. Mobile centres also needed to be looked into as a solution to this lack of access, especially in rural areas such as Mr Groenewald’s.

Mr Groenewald stated that fraudulent activities were prevalent in the Department. How was this being addressed?

Mr Nhleko commented that this was an issue that was being aggressively and successfully dealt with by the Department. There were numerous examples of people who had been fired as a result of this kind of activity.

Mr O de Beer (COPE, Western Cape) commented on the discrepancy between the number of cases opened and the number of cases closed.

Mr De Beer commented on the most vulnerable sectors of labour, namely in farming, security and domestic workers. Less work seemed to be being done on those areas than on other areas. Was this true?

Ms Siyanda Nxawe, Deputy Director General: Inspection and Enforcement, Department of Labour, replied that these sectors had been identified as high risk and problematic sectors.

Mr De Beer commented that there was a problem with the enforcement of legislation.

Mr De Beer commented on the different placement, job seeking and training registers. Numbers involved seemed to be small. Unemployable workers were a real problem, and training was the only solution for those workers.

Mr Nhleko commented that the economy could only absorb a certain number of people, which meant that job seeking and training registers would always be much bigger than placement registers. Related to this, there was a training lay-off scheme. Unfortunately, if the company involved in laying employees off did not apply to this scheme, this would result in a number of unemployed, untrained citizens.

Ms Nxawe noted the concerns of Members related to occupational health and safety.

Mr De Beer was encouraged that the backlog of Unemployment Insurance Fund claims had diminished.

Mr De Beer raised the issue of staff morale. This needed to be dealt with as soon as possible. This posed a significant threat to service delivery in South Africa.

Co-Chairperson Sibande noted, for example, in Bellville and Johannesburg, that equipment was often stolen. How was this being dealt with?

Co-Chairperson Nchabeleng believed that low morale was a thing of the past. There was a challenge to re-skill and re-tool the face of the Department, namely the inspectorate. The inspectorate needed to be happy as this would reflect on the Department.

Ms Nxawe added that inspectors were often poached by the private and public sector. This hampered training efforts. However, there were plans to create posts of specialist inspectors who would be paid better. A survey had also been completed which indicated the qualification level of inspectors. Learnerships, which were registered with the relevant bodies, were also available to inspectors. Other inspectors were undergoing training. In terms of the profession itself, there was an ongoing dialogue with higher education institutions to develop training curricula for inspectors. Over and above that, a body needed to be established to manage the profession in much the same way as the medical profession and accountancy were managed. This would require intervention of organised labour and business.

Co-Chairperson Nchabeleng noted that farmers around the country required more help, especially bearing in mind the problems of climate change that were really affecting the country’s farmers. There was also a lack of communication between the Department of Labour, farmers, and AgriSA. Support services to farmers and industry needed to be communicated to all stakeholders.

Co-Chairperson Nchabeleng stated that skilling the inspectorate needed the re-skilling of people. However, it needed to be borne in mind that people who were trained by the Department needed to be made aware of their contractual obligations to the Department and they should not be allowed to leave soon after completing training.

Co-Chairperson Nchabeleng noted that the Department had improved in recent years, and hoped that this would continue in future.

Co-Chairperson Sibande requested that the centres and services be directed to the people who needed them. Centres needed to be brought to the people.

Co-Chairperson Sibande commented on Ms Mutloane’s assertion that there was not a problem with absenteeism. When Members had visited various offices it was clear that registers had not been signed for the entire month. Proper management needed to be implemented at the level of constituency offices.

Co-Chairperson Sibande noted that on their visits, Members had noticed that there was furniture that was not being used in offices, where there was a clear need for that furniture in those offices. There was also a real need to do an audit of assets to create an asset list for the Department.

Co-Chairperson Sibande thanked Members and members of the Delegation.

The meeting was adjourned.

Note: In the absence of Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga), Chairperson of the Labour and Public Enterprises Select Committee, who was ill,  Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC) and Mr M Sibande (ANC. Mpumalanga) had been nominated and elected as Co-chairs for the meeting.



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