Horse Racing Industry engagement about Grooms

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Trade and Industry

07 June 2017
Chairperson: Ms J Fubbs (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The South African Grooms Association (SAGA) said grooms in the horse racing industry were suffering badly. There were 4 000 grooms in the industry, and there was a crisis in their treatment. The matter had already been brought to the attention of the Committee in 2011, and the Minister had then instituted a facilitator to assist with the process of the industry recognising SAGA. The horseracing industry had then recognised SAGA. In 2012, the Minister had approved the National Gambling Policy, and all the stakeholders in the industry would have to follow the Act. SAGA had told the Minister there was only one solution -- that the National Gambling Bill should be adopted as soon as possible. Since 2012, SAGA had been awaiting the release of the National Gambling Bill. The Department needed to provide feedback to SAGA on the bill’s progress. SAGA questioned why the bill was not being treated as urgent, and asked for the Committee’s assistance in facilitating the bill’s adoption.

The Department of Trade and Industry gave a brief outline on what had transpired since the Minister had appointed a facilitator. It described the failed attempts to get the horseracing industry and SAGA to come together, despite the efforts of the facilitator. A horseracing liaison committee had been established, but the Department had continued to receive complaints from grooms and from the horse racing industry, and had continued to engage with both parties. A third party, Resolve Communications, had been brought in to help the grooms to show that they had representation. SAGA had raised concerns that this initiative might have been pre-arranged because of the establishment of a new grooms’ association by horseracing operators called the Progressive Movement for Grooms (PMG). Resolve Communications had tried to get the groups to work together, and agreement had been reached that grooms did not need to prove their representation and all three associations would participate. The Department had recognised that it did not have the mandate to interfere and had placed the issues that had arisen into the National Gambling Policy and into the draft bill. The Department had also met with the Competition Commission to discuss the way the horseracing industry was composed and managed. The bill was being processed, and the Department needed to meet with the National Gambling Council. After that, it would go to Cabinet before coming to Parliament.

The Chairperson said she had engaged with the Portfolio Committee on Labour as the matter was essentially a labour issue. Members said the issue was complex and outside of the Committee’s mandate, and belonged to the Portfolio Committee on Labour. Members wanted to know whether the figure of 4 000 grooms represented those belonging to SAGA, or to the industry as a whole. Why were the other two associations representing grooms absent from this meeting? What steps had SAGA taken to approach the SA Human Rights court and the labour court to seek relief? How were grooms remunerated? Were they paid overtime for work on weekends? Members asked when the facilitator had been appointed, what had been done by the facilitator, and wanted a copy of his report on his findings and the way forward. Was SAGA part of the Bargaining Council?

Members said SAGA’s hope in the National Gambling Bill was misplaced, as the bill dealt with gambling and not grooms. The bill was not the solution, as it was a labour issue, and the matter had to be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Labour urgently.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said she had engaged with the Portfolio Committee on Labour, as the matter before the Committee was essentially a labour issue.

South African Grooms Association (SAGA): Briefing

Mr Chophelikha Simoto, Chairperson of SAGA, said grooms in the horse racing industry were suffering badly. The matter had already been brought to the attention of the Committee in 2011, and the Minister had instituted a facilitator to assist with the process of the industry recognising SAGA. The horseracing industry had then recognised SAGA. In 2012 the Minister had developed the National Gambling Policy, where all the stakeholders in the industry would have to follow the Act. SAGA’s inputs had been considered, because the liaison committee between the grooms and the industry had not worked. SAGA had told the Minister there was only one solution -- that the National Gambling Bill be adopted as soon as possible.

There were 4 000 grooms in the industry and there was a crisis in their treatment. SAGA was putting its complaint to the Committee, as the Committee was aware of the issues and SAGA’s plight. Since 2012, SAGA had been awaiting the release of the Gambling Bill. The Department needed to provide feedback to SAGA on the bill’s progress. He questioned why the bill was not being treated as urgent, as the 4 000 grooms in the industry were ‘dying’. He asked for the Committee’s assistance in facilitating the bill’s adoption.

The Chairperson said no current members of the Committee had been present when Mr Simoto was last present six years ago, and she had believed that the matter had been resolved. The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Labour had said they would become involved, because essentially it was a labour issue.

Department of Trade and Industry

Mr Nkoatse Mashamaite, Director: Gambling Law and Policy, Department of Trade and Industry (dti), said the Minister had instituted an independent facilitator to help resolve the issue between the grooms and the horseracing industry after an attempt by the National Gambling Board had failed to assist in resolving the matter.

The Minister had felt that the National Gambling Board was not independent enough. Mr Tefo Raditapole, from Tokiso Dispute Settlement, had therefore been appointed. There had been a reluctance by Phumelela Gaming and Leisure to participate, because of threats of violence and extortion from SAGA, and in the way it had addressed Phumelela. He said that upon examination, it had not been extortion, but a lack of English language skills on the part of SAGA’s representatives. SAGA wanted the national recognising authority to recognise them.

A horseracing liaison committee had been established, but this committee had demanded that SAGA should prove it represented at least a third of the grooms in the different regions. At that time, there had been another organisation called the SA National Grooms and Assistant Trainers Association (SANGATA), which also wanted recognition. It was agreed that each should have a representative on the liaison committee, and that they had 12 months to prove that they represented at least a third of the grooms.

The grooms had asked that there be a code of conduct protocol to govern how the process would unfold. There was no protocol in existence, so a protocol was developed.

After the facilitator had finished work, the Department had taken over, but it continued to receive complaints from grooms that their ideas were being shot down, and from the horse racing industry that they were receiving threats of violence. The Department had continued to engage with both parties.

After 12 months, the stipulated period for SAGA to show they represented the grooms, the horseracing industry said that SAGA had not shown that they represented the grooms in the industry. A third party, Resolve Communications, had been brought in to assist the grooms to show they had representation. SAGA had raised concerns that this initiative might have been arranged, because there was a new association that the operators had created, called the Progressive Movement for Grooms (PMG). Resolve Communications had tried to get the groups to work together and a resolution had been agreed upon, that grooms did not need to proof of representation, and all three associations would participate.

The Department had recognised that it did not have the mandate to interfere, and had placed the issues that had arisen into the National Gambling Policy and into the draft bill.

The Department had met with the Competition Commission to discuss the way the horseracing industry was composed and managed. The Competition Commission had not taken the matter to the Competition Tribunal. The Competition Commission had identified two issues. Phumelela and Gold Circle had exclusive agreements, which excluded other operators with regard to foreign opportunities. It was felt that this was uncompetitive behaviour. There was also the issue of co-mingling, where three operators combined to pool their betting, which then drove out other operators who could not compete.

Mr Mashamaite said the bill was being processed and the Department needed to meet with the National Gambling Council. After that it would go to Cabinet before coming to Parliament.

The Chairperson said she would be raising the issue of provinces preventing the bill from being processed, and that the Minister should exercise his authority because the provinces’ actions meant that national legislation was being blocked.

Mr Mashamaite said the Department was hoping fot the Ministers and Members of Executive Council (MinMec) meeting to take place in the first week of July.

The Chairperson said the Committee would issue a statement on the matter.

Discussion

Mr D Macpherson (DA) said the issue was complex and outside of the Committee’s mandate. It belonged to the Portfolio Committee on Labour. He wanted to know whether the figure of 4 000 grooms represented SAGA, or the industry as a whole. Why were the other two associations which represented grooms absent? What steps had SAGA taken to approach the SA Human Rights court and the labour court to seek relief?

Mr J Esterhuizen (IFP) said it was a labour issue, and he believed the industry was in decline. He asked how grooms were remunerated. Were they paid overtime for work on weekends? He suggested owners should pay the grooms’ wages.

Mr G Cachalia (DA) asked when the facilitator had been appointed, and what had been done by the facilitator.

Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) said the Committee should get a report from the facilitator on his findings, and on the way forward. She asked if SAGA was part of the Bargaining Council.

The Chairperson said the Committee needed to hear from the other grooms’ associations. SAGA was present because they had written to the Committee. SAGA had agreed with the national gambling policy and wanted to know when it would be enacted.

Mr Simoto said the figure of 4 000 was for the total number of grooms nationally.

Mr Nathi Mjenxane, Committee legal advisor, said he needed more information on the matter and needed to investigate specific legislation. He asked for an opportunity to investigate the matter.

Mr Mashamaite said the national gambling policy had gone through Cabinet, but still needed to pass the MinMec committee stage.

Mr Macpherson asked what portion of the 4 000 grooms were represented by SAGA.

Mr Esterhuizen said he had a problem with over-regulation in the industry, and South Africa as a whole. Every owner paid the trainer and the groom, and the groom received 1% of the prize money.

Mr Simoto said SAGA’s membership was 2 400. There were inspectors who visited all the provinces on labour issues, but they had never come to inspect the grooms’ labour issues. The grooms worked from Monday to Sunday, and no overtime was paid. The only way grooms would be able to challenge the status quo was if the National Gambling Bill was passed.

Mr Macpherson said Mr Simoto’s hope in the National Gambling Bill was misplaced, as the bill dealt with gambling, and not grooms. It was incumbent on him to say that the bill was not the solution, as it was a labour issue and the matter had to be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Labour urgently.

Mr Mashamaite said the facilitator had been appointed in September 2014 for a period of two months which had been extended to December, so that the work could be concluded. The facilitator’s report could be sent to the Committee.

He said that while 1% of the prize money went to the grooms, there were instances where it went to the trainer, who determined what the groom would get. These were the types of issues the grooms were battling with. SAGA was supposed to complement the likes of the Jockey Association, where there was freedom for jockeys to express their views on the industry and their working conditions.
The Department had been engaging with labour federations on the issues as well as on salary deductions.

The Chairperson proposed that the Committee seek legal advice and consult with the Department. She believed that the Portfolio Committee on Labour needed to get directly involved, as the issue at hand was 65% to 70% labour-related. The other two grooms’ associations had to be contacted also.

Mr Macpherson said that the operators then also needed to be contacted.

The Chairperson said that she was just trying to get the grooms to address their issue to the right committee.

The Committee agreed to this proposal.

The meeting was adjourned.


 

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