Labour Department Budget and Strategic Plan: briefing

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LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE
1 June 2005
LABOUR DEPARTMENT BUDGET AND STRATEGIC PLAN: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Ms M Themba (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department of Labour Programme of Action and Strategic Plan 2004-2009
National Skills Development Strategy 1 April 2005 – 31 March 2010
Department of Labour Integrated Work Plan 2005-2006

SUMMARY
The Department of Labour presented its Programme of Action and Strategic Plan, Integrated Work Plan 2005-2006 and Employment Equity Awards system. Compliance to labour legislation would be ensured by increased inspections and a drive to educate workers. The 2005-2008 Department budget was then presented. The Department had underspent last year by R133 million and with this year’s increase of 6.9% (equivalent to R85 million), sufficient funds were available to fulfill its objectives.

During the discussion, Members expressed concern regarding child labour and the exploitation of farmworkers. Questions were raised about the taxi industry and the education of taxi drivers; the poor functioning of rural Labour Offices, and the availability of a hotline to the Department of Labour. Other issues included migrant workers and social insurance coverage. A Member enquired about private security companies being employed by commercial farmers. The increasing trend towards job casualisation was also discussed.

MINUTES

Department briefing
Mr L Kettledas (Department Deputy-Director, General Labour Policy and Labour Market Programmes) presented the Committee with its Programme of Action and Strategic Plan. Its mission was to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality by improving economic efficiency. Skills development and job creation were vital. Sound labour relations would be encouraged, as well as the elimination of inequality and discrimination in the workplace. The Department would also focus on increasing awareness of safety and compliance to Occupational Health and Safety in the workplace.

The Integrated Work Plan 2005-2006 aimed to contribute to job creation, develop training programmes for the unemployed and learners, collaborate with at least 50% of projects in nodal areas, and assist in the placement of individuals once training was completed. Equity in the workplace should result in an employment ratio of 85% black people, 54% women and 4% disabled, including youth. To encourage this, an Employment Equity Awards System would be implemented.

The Department would also concentrate on ensuring compliance by employers to labour legislation and extending protection to vulnerable workers, including children. There would be increased inspections and a drive to educate workers. Self-regulation in the workplace would be encouraged.

The 2005-2008 Department budget was then presented. The Department had underspent last year by R133 million and with this year’s increase of 6.9% (equivalent to R85 million), sufficient funds were available to fulfill its objectives.

Discussion
Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC) asked if they had statistics that provided a province by province breakdown of unemployment, especially among women. She also requested statistics on child labour, particularly on farms and the use of child sexworkers.

Mr Kettledas replied that the Labour Force Survey published by Statistics SA in February and September each year, provided a breakdown of statistics. Regarding child labour, he pointed out that the Inspectorate would pick up this issue when visiting farms. In the context of the Child Labour Action Plan, the Department worked closely with the SA Police on drug trafficking and child sexworkers. He emphasised that the various Departments had to work together on this issue. An Imbizo was planned for later this year that would focus on farmworkers. Any specific information on the Cape Town concerns should be reported to the Cape Town Labour Centre. Wages and conditions of employment were set out for farmworkers.

Regarding the taxi industry, Ms Ntwanambi asked how much public education was being done. Both commuters and drivers had rights and often the relationship between the two groups was not good. Mr Kettledas replied that since the launch in April of the Taxi Sector Determination, the provinces were running information and briefing sessions on the rights of employees, as well as increasing awareness that good public relations with commuters was important.

Mr S Morotoba (Department Deputy Director-General for Labour Policy and Market Policies) added that there was Department realisation that those in the taxi industry, like any other industry, required training. Taxi drivers should have knowledge of the vehicles they were driving and rules regarding public relations and cash management. The Transport Education and Training Authority had launched a "Taxi Chamber" which ran training programmes. Taxis would display stickers showing that the driver had attended a training course, and the vehicle would be numbered so that bad behaviour or driving could be reported. This was a form of a registration system.

Ms J Terblanche (DA) asked how taxi drivers who did not register for the course would be monitored. Mr Kettledas said that with over 130 000 taxi drivers, it would take some time to train everyone. The role that taxi associations played would be critical to the programme’s success.

Ms M Themba (ANC) reported that in her rural constituency, the Labour Office only opened once a week, at irregular hours, and the official employed there had a rude manner with the public. She asked how often roving team of inspectors visited rural areas to keep in touch with developments and problems.

Mr Morotoba replied that because some offices were in remote areas, the Provincial Office was not always aware of what was happening. Rural offices were visited fortnightly depending on the workload. He would report the behaviour in her constituency. Each province should have a stakeholder’s forum comprising both business and labour representatives. Poor performance by officials should be reported to the Regional Manager at the local Labour Centre. Provincial offices should also be encouraged to work closely with constituency offices.

Ms M Xaba (Department Deputy Director-General for Corporate Services) added that 20 mobile units were now operating and this had helped to address the issue of mobility and accessibility.

Mr Mkono (ANC) said that the Department had made encouraging comments about employment equity and the award system to be implemented. He asked how far this incentive had been motivated by the notion that affirmative action was only promoting black people against white people. He asked whether the response had been favourable. There were now incentives to have the law respected for the benefit of all. Mr Kettledas replied that the system would be implemented within the next year. The Commission would take the process forward.

Mr Mkono observed that despite the fact that provinces had mandated proposals for the protection of labour, there were still some provinces where the majority of employers were not respecting their employees. He asked if there were mechanisms to monitor maltreatment and make employees feel protected, such as a hotline to report maltreatment.

Mr S Morotoba replied that there was no hotline at present. Mechanisms were in place to ensure compliance with legislation. Over the past three years, there had been a massive outreach programme. In 2003, only 60 000 inspections had been done but in 2004, 180 000 had been done. The number of workplaces reached was more important – this year the target would be 200 000 workplaces which would benefit approximately 500 000 workers. There had also been an increase in the number of enforcement documents handed out by inspectors. Many employers responded to these. Staff in the workplace should ‘self-regulate’ and elect shop stewards to report incidents. In addition, the Department should educate, advise and increase the level of reporting. The number of ‘blitz inspections’ should also be increased.

Mr Mkono asked about the scope of social insurance and whether Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) fell under that. Procedures followed when miners were retrenched were often incorrect. In the end, the illiterate workers suffered and found themselves without any recourse to unemployment payouts. Mr Kettledas replied that social insurance covered the Compensation Fund and UIF. Regarding the dismissal of mineworkers, there was a problem because of the fragmentation of legislation. This would fall under the responsibility of the Department of Minerals and Energy Affairs. An overarching policy for the country was needed to address these issues

Ms S Mabe (ANC) reported on a family in her constituency that had worked and lived on a farm for 30 years and had been evicted when the farm was sold. When they had tried to claim UIF, they were told to apply in one person’s name. What could be done about this? In addition the farmer had been ordered by the court to pay them a sum of R3000 each. She asked whether this amount was correct in view of the fact that they had been on the farm for 30 years. Mr L Kettledas pointed out that the settlement would have been under the "Extension of Security of Tenure Act" and that Land Affairs dealt with evictions. The Department of Labour had no jurisdiction in these matters. If details of the ID numbers of each person were obtained, the Department could check on UIF contributions.

Mr J Sibiya (ANC) asked if the Department had any knowledge of security companies owned by commercial farmers. These security companies were being used to suppress labour protests on farms. He asked if the Department had any influence on these companies. Mr S Morotoba was not aware of such security companies and would like more details.

Ms S Cheng (DA) commented on the high unemployment rate in the textile industry and asked what figures were available. Mr Kettledas replied that the only information available was the Labour Force Survey.

Mr Sibiya reported on allegations that a mortuary in Limpopo Province was not storing corpses on shelves but hanging them on hooks from the ceiling! He asked what could be done about this. Mr Kettledas replied that this was a matter for the Department of Health.

Ms Ntwanambi asked whether migrant workers were protected with claims for injuries and diseases. Mr Kettledas replied that the only workers not covered were those working less than 24 hours per month. Legislation provided for reported injury and disease. Rand Mutual Assurance managed compensation on mines and payed out to Mozambique monthly for a range of occupational injuries and diseases.

Ms Themba raised how casualisation should be handled, especially as there were an increasing number of casuals, particularly in the retail industry. Mr Kettledas replied that this was under discussion in NEDLAC. There was growth in this and other atypical forms of employment. Steps would be taken to address this and introduce legislation if necessary. The President had also raised the issue.

Ms Themba enquired whether the budget for the Department was satisfactory and whether it would be sufficient to carry the plan of action.

Ms Xaba replied that the Department had underspent by R133 million last year. This year it had received a 6.9% increase (equal to R85 million). She concluded that there was adequate funding for the Department.

The meeting was adjourned

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