Department of Labour Budget: briefng

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Meeting report

040526sclabour

LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE
26 May 2004
DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR BUDGET: BRIEFNG

Chairperson:
Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Presentation on Labour's Budget and Strategic Plan
Department of Labour Budget Vote 17

SUMMARY
In presenting its strategic plan and budget, the Department of Labour stated that it sought to play a significant role in reducing unemployment, poverty and inequality through a set of policies and programmes developed in consultation with social partners. Such policies are aimed at improving economic efficiency and productivity; sound labour relations and eliminating inequality and discrimination in the workplace.

In the discussion that followed the presentation, the following topics were covered:
- the fact that there had been no underspending in the Department
- its intention to establish bargaining councils in the private security industry, civil engineering and the contract cleaning sector
- the instruments for monitoring the impact of the Department's policies
- its plans to bring participants in the Extended Public Works Programme into the mainstream economy
- the child labour problem
- concern about the employment of foreigners
- support structures to help people to be self-employed.

MINUTES
The Acting Director General, Mr VM Mkosana; Ms Masodi Xaba, DDG: Corporate services and Mr L Kettledas, DDG: Labour Policy and Labour Market Programmes represented the Department of labour.

The Acting Director-General welcomed the opportunity to brief the Committee and commence with the briefing. He dealt with the strategic plan; programme of action; and legislation administered by the Department. Ms Xaba dealt with the budget of the Department. (See attached presentation)

Discussion
During her presentation Ms Xaba said that the Department had a R250 million deferred Unemployment Insurance Fund allocation in the 2003/04 MTEF allocation. Mr CJ Van Rooyen (Free State)(ANC) asked if this meant that there was some form of underspending in that year. He also asked if the Department could assure the Committee that there would be no underspending in future.

Ms Xaba replied that the Department of Labour was the first department in the previous financial year to close its books. There were no cases of underspending in the Department.

Mr Z Kolweni (ANC) observed that when the Department had dealt with the issue of vulnerable workers no mention was made of workers infected with HIV/AIDS. He asked why such people are not included under vulnerable workers.

Mr Kettledas responded that there are various instruments dealing with the issue of HIV/AIDS. The Employment Equity Act prohibits medical testing of employees. There is also a Code of Good Practice and technical assistance guidelines on how to manage HIV/AIDS


Ms M Madlala-Magubane (Gauteng)(ANC) asked the Department to indicate the sectors in which they intend to establish bargaining councils. She also asked the department give a breakdown of its staff composition.

Mr Kettledas replied that bargaining councils would be established in the private security industry, civil engineering and the contract cleaning sector. At the moment there is minimal collective bargaining in these sectors. There are trade unions that are beginning to take the conditions in these sectors seriously and this opens a possibility of establishing bargaining councils.

The Chairperson also requested the Department to forward its organogram at a later stage so that the Committee would be able to know whom to contact when they want some information

Ms MP Themba (Mpumalanga)(ANC) asked if the Department had a gender focal point
.

Ms Xaba replied the Department used to have a person responsible for addressing gender issues. The person was no longer with the Department. The Department has put together a proposal of establishing a directorate to look into gender, HIV/AIDS and employee assistance projects.

Ms N Ndlane (Limpopo)(ANC) asked if the Department has any policies or instruments on monitoring the impact of the Department's policies
.

Mr Kettledas replied that the Department has the power to commission research on any issue. Established labour information systems also give information on labour market trends and the implication these have on policies. The Department would also establish indicators to determine if it is achieving sound labour relations. He added that the various pieces of labour legislation also indicated if the Department is achieving its goals.

The Director-General added that the Department has in the past five years noticed that it had not been very good in assessing the impact of its policies. This year they have decided to prioritise this.

Mr K Sinclaire (Northern Cape)(NNP) asked why payment for capital assets has declined from R79, 399 in 2003/04 to R68, 341 in 2004/05.

Ms Xaba responded that the allocations go down as the Department achieves its goals.

The Chairperson commented that sometimes one finds a labour dispute involving an unregistered company. She asked how the Department deals with unregistered companies. She also asked if the Department has offices in every municipality.

The Director-General replied that offices are established in terms of need and population density.

On the issue of unregistered companies, Mr Kettledas replied that all companies must be registered with the Department of Trade and Industry. They should also register with the Department of Labour for the purposes of UIF and compensation of employees for work related injuries. If a company is not registered the Department's Inspectorate usually tries to secure a compliance order which could be made a court order if the company fails to adhere to the order.

Mr DG Mkono (Eastern Cape)(ANC) asked if there were any plans to bring those people participating in the Extended Public Works Programmes (EPWPs) into the mainstream economy. He also asked if there are plans to curb the employment of children, especially in farms.

Mr Kettledas replied that the Department takes the child labour problem very seriously. He drew attention to a farmer who had been prosecuted in Western Cape for employing children. The Department is working with different stakeholders in trying to eliminate this problem. There are also laws that prohibit the employment of children. The Department has identified prostitution and drugs trafficking as areas that need immediate attention.

With regard to equipping participants in the EPWP, the Director-General said that participants are trained to enable them to enter into the mainstream economy or be self-employed. The Department's target is that at least 70% of people trained should be placed somewhere.

Mr Z Kolweni commented that sometimes one finds cases wherein employees are ill-treated and there is no trade union in the workplace. He asked where such people should refer their disputes.

Mr Kettledas replied that the CCMA is always available for such people to refer their disputes. People should also feel free to call the Department whenever they have problems.

Ms S Cheng (Gauteng)(DA) asked what happened to monies deducted from employees' salaries. She also felt that Chinese are a disadvantaged group and asked if the Department is doing anything about their situation.

Mr Mkosana replied the Chinese question has just reached the Department's offices and is receiving serious attention. It would be premature to make any statement on this issue.

Mr Kettledas replied that, amongst others, money was deducted for unemployment insurance purposes and for skills development. He said that the money goes to the payment of unemployment benefits, maternity leave, sick benefits and to the next-of-kin of a deceased contributor.

Mr Mkono expressed concern about the employment of foreigners in the security industry. He felt that employing such people could compromise the security of the country. He asked if the Department had any mechanism to monitor this practice in the industry. Did the Department have a hotline to report any such incidence?

Mr Kettledas replied that an employer must have a permit to employ foreigners. The first port of call for an employer who wants unskilled labourers, for instance, should be the Department's labour centers. It is only after one has been unable to find suitable South Africans that one can apply for a permit to employ foreigners. The Department of Foreign Affairs also deports foreigners who are working in the country illegally.

Mr Van Rooyen asked if there are any support structures to help people to be self-employed.

The Director-General replied that the Department assists with skills development and also contributes to employment creation. The Umsobomvu Youth Fund assists young entrepreneurs to establish their own businesses.

Mr Sinclaire asked if the Department is doing anything about the juveniles who do not go to school and are roaming the streets.

The Director-General replied that the issue is not under the Department's jurisdiction since they are not of working age.

The meeting was adjourned.

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