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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
4 February 2003
DEPARTMENT PROGRAMME FOR 2003
Acting Chairperson: Mr D Oliphant (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Presentation on Department Work Programme
Committee Programme 2003 (document awaited)
The Committee finalised their programme for 2003 and also tried to harmonise their programme with that of the Department. The Department briefed the Committee on their 2004 plan and its strategic focus points. These focus points include the monitoring and reviewing labor market policies. This would entail conducting research on cooperatives and job creation, atypical forms of employment such as casual workers in order to better understand its nature and scale.
With respect to skills development the Department acknowledged that there is a need to accelerate delivery of and access to learnership for 50000 unemployed young people. The Department would be strengthening enforcement mechanisms by increasing the level of compliance within companies with employment equity legislation. It would also publish guidelines to assist in the implementation of codes of conduct.
Department Programme 2003
Mr Rams Ramashia: Director General, cited the fifteen points that form the 2004 plan, which the Committee had already been briefed on.
These include the following:
-Seeking a balance between security and efficiency in the work place.
-Employment creation: programmes should be sensitive to the government's commitment to create employment.
-Implementation of skills development strategy and ensuring that workers have the skills needed increase competitiveness and better the economy.
-Employment equity: ensuring that legislation aimed at the previously disadvantaged is supported (for example, unfair discrimination, HIV status)
-Vulnerable workers: specific protection to be provided and determining what interventions to be taken.
Mr Ramashia explained that this fifteen point program has been developed into strategic focus points, which include the following:
-Monitoring and reviewing labor market policies. This would entail conducting research on cooperatives and job creation, atypical forms of employment such as casual workers in order to better understand its nature and scale.
-Skills development. There is a need to accelerate delivery of and access to learnership for 50000 unemployed young people. Companies would be encouraged to take learners. The 2004/5 National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) targets are to be implemented and monitored. Equity targets must be included: 85% black, 54% women and 4% disabled people. Complaints were received against media houses, that they did not comply with the targets set and the law requirements.
-Ensuring that SETAs achieve 2003/4 targets. The Department of Labour hopes to ensure that training takes place by entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOUs) with the SETAs and supporting those that do not meet the target set. The aim is to train 164 763 persons through a strategic project fund aimed at those who were not trained from the conventional fund of SETA.
-With respect to employment equity the Department would strengthen enforcement mechanisms by increasing the level of compliance within companies. It would also publish guidelines to assist in the implementation of codes of conduct.
-Supporting the Home Affairs Office in the implementation of the Immigration Act in respect of migrant workers in particular farmworkers brought in illegally from neighboring countries.
In order to work towards an improved social safety net the Department would look to implementing a fraud reduction strategy. The financial viability of the Unemployment Insurance Fund was to be improved as well as claims processing.
Mr Mshudulu (ANC) asked what progress was made in terms of setting up safety committees within the workplace.
Mr Ramashia assured him that a inroads had been made. An advocacy campaign, using pamphlets, had been set up urging employees to call the Department ("whistleblow") if their workplace had no safety committee. The Department would then send an inspector to the said workplace. It was a requirement of law that the committee exist in a company.
Mr Mshudulu asked whether the learners within companies or various Departments could not be employed within the said companies or departments on completion of their training.
Mr Ramashia said this would depend on the learnership contract but the Department would look into it.
Mr Pillay was concerned about the smoke and smells emitted by certain factories which was polluting the environment and asked what the Department intended to do to protect the workers in those factories.
Mr Ramashia reminded the Committee about the subtle causes he had mentioned earlier when alluding to occupational health safety. The OHS committees were to identify the key risk areas, nationally, and labor and government were to identify the provincial key risk areas.
A Member asked whether the Department had enough inspectors to monitor child laborers in fields .
Mr Ramashia admitted that there were not enough inspectors but that the Department had to leverage the number it had and determine where the concentration of inspectors should be. Allies from the criminal justice system as well as farmers themselves could be whistleblowers.
She was also concerned about the status of casual workers. Trade unions could not take up their case and this led to manipulation by employers.
It was a global phenomenon, stated Mr Ramashia, as there was no law preventing casualisation. It was a problem that could not be dealt with only by means of legislation, for instance, as done by the Labour Relations Act, by changing their status to that of independent contractor.
The Member was also concerned about immigrant workers who were exploited on the farms by their employers.
Mr Ramashia stated that the Department was dealing with this by entering into negotiations with the countries involved such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique, in order to regulate this area.
The Member asked about the plight faced by employees after dismissal for whistleblowing.
Mr Ramashia said that it was, unfortunately, inevitable, but in a case of unlawful dimissal relief could be sought from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the workers were more and more aware of this. A study revealed that domestic workers were the third highest group to use the CCMA services and it showed that they were aware of their rights.
Mr N Middleton (IFP) asked what criteria was used when enrolling people for the "E degree".
A Department representative explained that the E degree was structured in three tiers: certificate, diploma and degree. It was available to all employees, depending on their level of competency.
A Member was concerned about the informal nature of the relationship between domestic workers and their employers.
The Department's representative explained that a proforma contract had been developed and was available on the website www.labour.co.za. It was accompanied by a payslip to be filled.
Mr Ramashia concluded by saying that the Department was in the process of amending and supplementing the fifteen year program and hoped it would be recalled by the Committee so it could report on the changes and achievement made.
The meeting was adjourned.
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