Ollis proposal to amend the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993 (No 30 of 1993); Recommendation Report on Van Rheede van Oudtshoorn special petition

Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions

01 May 2012
Chairperson: Mr S Thobejane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with the Portfolio Committee on Labour to discuss the Ollis proposal to amend the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993 by expanding comprehensive Compensation Fund coverage to domestic workers.

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Labour indicated that
the Department of Labour was currently working on legislation to amend the Compensation Act and at the same time ensure that vulnerable workers were included in the laws and regulations. It was therefore considered that opening the matter in the Committee on Private Members Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions would be duplication and a waste of time. No time lines were indicated and it appeared that there was as yet no draft document.
It was agreed that
the Committee would liaise with the Minister of Labour and get the position on the matter before arriving at a determination.

The draft report of the Committee on the special petition of Mrs van Rheede van Oudtshoorn was tabled with the following recommendation:

If the Committee were to allow the special petition and the purchase of that service, the employer and GEPF should not be asked to cover that amount, since she would then have received a substantial amount to which she was not entitled by comparison with other pensioners who had contributed and retired with ten years service.

In light of the above, the Committee was of the view that, had the GEPF adequately communicated the implications of the stipulated provisions with the special petitioner, it would not have necessitated consideration of this special petition by Parliament.

The Committee concluded that the special petitioner’s request should not proceed.

The report was adopted with that amendment that ‘and that communication was done to the relevant people in that regard’ be added to the conclusion.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed all, in particular the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Labour and his colleagues.

Ollis proposal to
amend the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993 to expand comprehensive Compensation Fund coverage to domestic workers
Ms P Kopane (DA) recalled that in a previous meeting on this matter, the Committee had sat with the Minister, Compensation Commissioner and
Portfolio Committee on Labour, however only the later was present in this meeting.

A Member from the Portfolio Committee on Labour replied that they had been invited to attend and was not aware of who else had been invited. That information would have to be checked with the Department of Labour’s Parliamentary Liaison Officer.

The Chairperson explained that the Committee normally sent the legislative proposal to the Ministry and asked for their input. It seemed that the Ministry had not made any input. The Portfolio Committee on Labour had communicated that it would have an internal session, but it was still important to have their input on the matter. Mr Ollis felt it was discriminatory to exclude domestic workers as beneficiaries of the Compensation Fund. The Committee had to take a decision as to whether the proposal should be recommended to proceed to the Portfolio Committee on Labour or the affected department.

Mr
E Nchabeleng (Chairperson: Portfolio Committee on Labour) said his Committee had looked into the proposal and had numerous discussions about it. The issue was not new to the committee, or to the Department, and South Africa had sponsored a resolution at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) pertaining to matters that affected the most vulnerable workers. South Africa was praised for having defined and redefined what domestic and vulnerable workers meant. The Department of Labour was currently working on legislation to amend the Compensation Act and at the same time ensure that vulnerable workers were included in the laws and regulations. The Portfolio Committee on Labour was working on that together with its sister organisations that participated in the ILO, among whom was the Head of the Domestic Workers Organisation in South Africa. The amendments were in the pipeline and legislation had already been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Labour by Parliament. In light of this, it was his considered view that it would be a duplication and a waste of time for the Committee on Private Members Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions to deal with this proposal.

Mr S Motau, (DA, Shadow Minister of Labour) asked whether the proposed amendments were similar to those proposed by Mr Ollis.

Ms F Khumalo (ANC) replied that it was clear from what Mr Nchabeleng had said that dealing with the matter would be pre-empting similar legislation soon to be introduced by the national executive. She suggested that the matter be withheld until the Department of Labour finalised the matter.

Mr F Bhengu (ANC) supported the view expressed by the previous speaker.

The Chairperson asked Mr Nchabeleng what the time frame was until the Department finished with the matter.

Mr E Nyekemba (Portfolio Committee on Labour Member) replied that the Department had identified in its strategic plan that there needed to be amendments made to the Act but time lines were not specified. The matter had been raised with the Department for some time and Portfolio Committee on Labour needed to follow up with the Department, but the issue was being attended to.

The Chairperson said it was very important to have time frames so that the Committee in its determination could have a well-defined programme relating to that. An undefined commitment was a challenge for the Committee to move forward with no clear time frames.

Mr Ollis agreed. The Portfolio Committee on Labour had a briefing by various organisations representing the domestic workers sector about a year ago. Other organisaltions like COSATU, FEDUSA also attended this meeting. One of the organisations had stated in that meeting that they had been waiting for ten years to get a response to this question of compensation benefits for domestic workers. For the three years that he had served on the Portfolio Committee on Labour, in all that time it was promised that the Department was working on something, however he had not seen any documentation during this period. He asked the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Labour whether there was a draft bill or draft amendment brought to Parliament, to the Portfolio Committee on Labour or to Nedlac?

The Chairperson proposed that the Committee go back to the Minister’s office to seek a clear indication as to where the Department was in terms of this piece of legislation.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) agreed, that was a wise decision. He quoted from a speech of Hon Jeremy Cronin last weekend, referring to the problems with the E-Tolling in Gauteng, wherein he said, “We find that departments prescribe to the politicians what’s happening and at what speed things will be happening and what will be prioritised”.  If the Committee asked the Department when it intended to bring the amendments to Parliament and other legislation was prioritised above this, then it would be putting those processes in the hands of bureaucrats, of officials. He could relate to what Mr Cronin had said in terms of his experience. Politicians should be the ones who said what the people of the country wanted and the bureaucrats must then perform and bring to the table what the Committee had asked them to do.

Mr van der Westhuizen proposed letting the proposed legislation go through to the Speaker of Parliament, let it go to the Portfolio Committee on Labour, and then, having the view of one Member of Parliament, the Committee could officially take a political decision on the matter and say to the bureaucrats that it supported the view, it was in line with what it heard of the ILO views on how domestic workers should be treated and it must be prioritised. That would be a way of the Committee, as politicians expressing their desires; in contrast to asking the Department what it wanted to do and when. He felt the Committee should take a harsher stand and let Parliament take that stance and say whether it supported this proposal or not and the Department must follow.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee should always be guided by its own rules, of which c) and d) applied, as to whether the proposal:

c) duplicated existing legislation or legislation awaiting consideration by the Assembly or Council;
d) pre-empted similar legislation soon to be introduced by the national executive.

It was in that context that he proposed finding out from the Department where it was in terms of the amendments, and after that it would be able to arrive at a well informed determination, knowing that the Department had a tangible programme.

Mr van der Westhuizen proposed that the letter not go to the Department but to the executive, the Minister of Labour, saying it was understood that such legislation was to be introduced and ask for confirmation of when it would be done.

Ms J Kilian (COPE) supported that, so that the Minister could also respond and the Committee could table the Minister’s response and also the time lines. Legislation soon to be introduced meant there should be a draft somewhere, so if the Minister could attach to the letter a copy of the draft that would also make it easier for the Committee.

Mr Nchabeleng agreed with that.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Nchabeleng, the Committee would liaise with the Minister of Labour and get the position on the matter and then arrive at a determination as a Committee.

He thanked the Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Labour and his colleagues for coming, as well as Mr Ollis, although he was out of line.

Van Rheede van Oudtshoorn special petition praying for pension
The Committee had studied and made amendments to the draft report the previous week.

The redrafted report of the Committee on the special petition of Mrs van Rheede van Oudtshoorn was tabled with the following recommendation:

If the Committee were to allow the special petition and the purchase of that service, the employer and Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) should not be asked to cover that amount, since she would then have received a substantial amount to which she was not entitled to by comparison with other pensioners who had contributed and retired with ten years service.

In light of the above, the Committee was of the view that, had the GEPF adequately communicated the implications of the stipulated provisions with the special petitioner, it would not have necessitated consideration of this special petition by Parliament.

The Committee concluded that the special petitioner’s request should not proceed.

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) was happy with the report but suggested adding to the conclusion that communication was done to the relevant people in that regard.

The report was adopted with that amendment.

Adoption of minutes
Minutes of Committee meeting held on 25 April 2012 were adopted with technical amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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