Department programmes 2001

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Employment and Labour

20 February 2001
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

20 February 2001

Chairperson: Mr MS Maine

Documents handed out:

Internal Management and Operations Programme 2001 (extract)
Labour Market Policy and Programme: Branch programme 2001

The Department of Labour presented its programme for 2001 which is based on the second year of its Five Year National Objective Plan running from 2000-2004. Key areas were identified with the Employment Equity Act being the most important.


The Director-General, Advocate Rams Ramashia, accompanied by senior officials of the Department of Labour: Deputy-Director General: Les Kettledas and Deputy-Director General: Dr V M Nkosana, in his brief overview of the Department's Five Year National Objective Plan started last year, said his Department's 15-Point Plan of Action was on track.

Seven Strategic Priorities
Dr Nkosana said that out of this 15-Point programme there are seven strategic priorities:
- The review of labour market policies to achieve labour market efficiency and labour standards.
- Skills development strategy to attract foreign direct investment
- Employment Equity Act to achieve demographic representivity at the work place
- The protection of vulnerable workers such as farm and domestic workers
- A Social Safety Net that involves improving both the UIF and Compensation Fund
- Information campaign on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) to avoid the a repetition of the Lenasia incident where eleven people died at a chemical factory,
-Labour Relations to promote bilateral labour co-operation between Labour and Government, Labour and Business, and Government and Business.

Internal Management And Operations Programme
Occupational Health And Safety
Dr Nkosana said that the Internal Management & Operations (IMO) programme would currently focus on those areas which it can change beginning with OHS. This involves education awareness campaigns and training amongst employers and employees and establishing inspection units.

Compensation Fund

The Compensation Fund will cover HIV/AIDS, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, decentralization of compensation functions to provinces, and public education on claiming procedures backed by the installation of an IT system to make the work of the Ministry more efficient.

Administration will focus on public relations to create a positive image of the Labour Ministry and Department, which will also have its own IT system for improving communication with the public and to popularise the programmes of the Department. The Administration also expects to fully implement and comply with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), which should be functioning by 2002.

Human Resource Management
Service delivery has been enhanced through the training of 45 middle managers and further improvements have been planned by Human Resources. The Employment Equity Plan will also be pursued to reflect the demographics of the country. The EE Plan will be launched in June.

Skills development plans will be created in Provinces with business units, to train the unemployed and also promote Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). Provinces will also be expected to adopt the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) to be launched on 22-24 February and to establish retrenchment response teams to assist the retrenched. This will serve as a protection for vulnerable workers.

On Human Rights Day, the Department will coin a slogan, which says, "Workers Rights Are Human Rights". Provinces in their integrated services will be expected to include the Employment Equity Act. Public awareness campaigns will focus on child labour on June 16 and Occupational Health & Safety in May. Employment Equity will be the main issue on Women's Day in August.

All provincial offices will be connected to the IT system to improve the financial viability of the UIF. The beneficiary services will be connected to the IT system for service delivery especially in the area of Compensation Fund and UIF. Lastly, provinces are to have a labour information service that will provide statistics on labour market trends.

Labour Market Policy And Programmes15-Point Programme
Mr Kettledas reviewed the 15-Point Programme:
- Point 1 on balance between security and flexibility refers to labour market efficiency and labour standards
- Points 2. & 3 refer to the creation of jobs through, for example, Public Works Programmes.
- Point 4 Skills Development Strategy: Milestones refers to the National Skills Development Strategy to be held from (February 22-24), Human Resource Development Strategy (May), Learnership (June), bursary awards (August) and Investor in People (a scheme developed in the UK to train and develop people through institutions) November. Skills Development Strategy falls under the same point.
- Point 5 Employment equity with key milestones involving income differentials, Codes of Good Practice, Human Rights Week, and reports by employers on EE (October 1).
- Point 6 Protection of vulnerable workers: key milestones publications on the treatment of farm and domestic workers (March and April), and International day of the Child (June 1).
- Point 7 Protection of vulnerable workers: key outcomes advocacy, child labour, Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)
- Point 8 Adequate social safety net including the UIF and Compensation Fund.
- Point 9 is about the promotion of stable labour relations and how to make the CCMA more effective.
- Point 10 looks at productivity, milestones and outcomes.
- Point 11 is about social partnerships whose key outcomes is the participation of Nedlac.
- Point 12 examines International Relations especially with organizations such as the ILO and SADC.
- Point 13 monitors the impact the 15- Point programme will have on the labour market.
- Point 14 discusses institutional restructuring.
- Point 15 features legislative amendments.

Mr Rasmeni (ANC) asked where the levy charged on companies for skills development goes. Secondly, he wanted to know the kind of linkage existing between the Department of Labour and the Department of Education.

Mr Ramashia replied that 80 percent of the skills development levy from companies goes to SETAS for vocational training while 20 percent goes to National Skills Fund to provide training for domestic workers and NGOs training those people. On the synergy between the Department of Labour and Education he said that linkage does not end there, but also encompasses such departments as the DTI for information on the SMMEs and the clusters that have been introduced are for that purpose.

Mr Mshudulu (ANC) wanted to know how the Department can reach especially unemployed people at constituency levels that do not know how to register in unemployment offices.

The DG said that the Department was shifting its policy and implementation to the provincial level to enable the work and services of the Department to reach the people at grassroot level.

Ms Thabethe (ANC) asked why the inspectors had to inform the employers that they are coming to inspect their premises instead of going there without notifying them. "Didn't that give them the opportunity to clean up and paint their places and after the inspection go back to square one?"

The DG said that the employer is informed out of courtesy. He said most employers were scared of inspectors and gave an example of how one inspector was manhandled by an employer. He said the Department prefers to work with Safety Committees at places of work. That way such incidents as that of a manhandled inspector are avoided.

Ms Thabethe said that some companies were not adhering to the OHS conditions and gave an example of a chemical factory that gives employees milk for drinking as precaution against any health hazards. She wanted to know what measures the Department was taking against such practices.

The DG said that he was deeply concerned about what he has just heard and called the employer's action "callous". He said that he was saddened by the fact that those employees did not know about their rights and said that the OHS campaign is meant to create awareness on such issues

Ms Thabethe said that under Compensation Fund, HIV/AIDS and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - was the question of sexual harassment. She wanted to know whether this was included in the programme?

The DG said that the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as relating to sexual harassment is a very complicated issue. He said it was more complex if a person infected with HIV at work did not know about his/her status before. Whether he/she got infected at work or not. He stressed that this was a complicated field. A person saying she has been sexually harassed needs to prove that it is sexual harassment that has led to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Another variable could be that she is being harassed by her husband at home.

Appendix 1:
This document outlines the main activities that the Department of Labour intends to pursue in the five years from 1999 to 2004:

The first five years of democratic rule in South Africa have been characterised by an extensive programme of transformation of the labour market. In the period from 1999 to 2004 we intend to consolidate the advances made and ensure that our vision for the labour market is successfully implemented.

In identifying our challenges, we need to bear in mind the context in which we shall be operating. On the one hand, the legacy of apartheid discrimination and exploitation has not yet been overcome and the process of globalization may result in further restructuring, retrenchments and attendant increases in inequality and poverty.

On the other hand, there are at present differences between the major labour market players on the policy approach to the labour market. Amongst the business community, a widely held view exists that labour market reforms are not aligned to the imperative of economic efficiency. Whether this can be borne out by reality is not necessarily relevant since it is acknowledged that such negative perceptions develop their own reality.

Amongst labour and community constituencies there is an appreciation of the interventions made by the Department of Labour. This is coupled with a growing concern that some of the interventions may not go far enough to address pressing problems they face including continued high income differentials, poverty among working people and the constant fear of retrenchment and job insecurity as well as high levels of unemployment.

Fifteen point programme
First, there is the need to strike an appropriate balance between security and flexibility in the labour market. While we believe that our legislative framework in general reflects such as balance …

Second, employment creation is the biggest challenge facing government. The Department's particular contribution to this challenge rests with the formulation of effective and active labour market policies as well as to provide a supporting and enabling environment for jobs to be created.

Third, we shall ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the resolutions of the Presidential Job Summit in order to accelerate job creation and tackle the scourge of high unemployment.

Fourth, the skills deficit is one of the major handicaps to the development of our economy and is a discouraging factor to potential foreign investors. With the policy framework now in place, our focus will shift to ensure that the skills development structures that are set up, adequately and speedily respond to market demands and imperatives.

Fifth, in light of the persistent way that racial and gender inequalities exist in the workplace and contribute to the inefficient utilisation of our human resources, the Department passed the Employment Equity Act in 1998. The coming period will focus on the effective implementation of the Employment Equity Act as an important part of Government's project to create an equitable society.

Sixth, the state carries the responsibility of protecting vulnerable workers to ensure that they have the same basic rights and are afforded their dignity. The Basic conditions of Employment Act is the principal instrument through which such protections are extended. In the coming period we shall focus on its effective and appropriate implementation, bearing in mind the above mentioned requirement to seek a balance between security and flexibility.

Seventh, there will be a need to introduce legislative reforms that are intended to improve the safety net to cushion those affected by the country's structural unemployment. This will be done within a broad framework of the government's social security system. Particular attention will be given to the restructuring of the Unemployment Insurance Fund in order to extend coverage, contain costs and enhance compliance.

Eighth, to adequately deal with the negative consequences of occupational accidents and ill health on individuals, enterprises and the state, we will accelerate measures aimed at reducing accidents and improving the health and safety of workers. This will occur, inter alia, through achieving greater co-ordination of the occupational health and safety instruments of government.

Ninth, evidence suggests that the interventions introduced through the Labour Relations Act of 1995 have contributed positively to promoting stable labour relations. The Department will ensure that these gains are built upon and consolidated in order to continue with the downward trend in industrial conflict. Negative and unintended consequences of the legislation will also be addressed through legislative amendment or institution and capacity building, as appropriate.

Tenth, the Department shall build on the initiatives already undertaken to promote productivity. This will include promoting an agreement between the social partners on productivity as discussed at the Job Summit in October 1998 and drawing on the experiences of the Workplace challenge and the National Productivity Institute.

Eleventh, the transformation of various statutory bodies and the establishment of NEDLAC have brought clear gains in policy development and policy making. The challenge is to build on this culture of dialogue and nurture the opportunities for deepened social partnership.

Twelfth, the Department will continue its efforts to ensure that our country is fully integrated in the international system. We intend to develop adequate capacity and resources to influence and shape international policies as developed by the ILO and other relevant international institutions.

Thirteen, the Department will improve its capacity to monitor the impact of government policy in regard to economic growth, employment and development. This will assist in establishing a more scientific basis for discussion on the impact of government's labour market policies.

Fourteen, the major institutional restructuring we have undertaken will have to be extended and consolidated in order to ensure that the Department of Labour is aligned to address the above mentioned challenges and carry out the new and expanded mandate that emanates from the changed policy environment.

Fifteenth, while the thrust of our policies will remain the same, certain areas will receive attention for possible legislative amendments to improve the effective functioning of the labour market and reduce what may be perceived to be obstacles to employment creation.



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