Programme of Action 2001: briefing by Labour Department

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LABOR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE

LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE
23 May 2001
PROGRAM OF ACTION FOR 2001: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR

Chair:
Mr S Fenyane

Relevant Documents
Internal Management & Operations Program 2001
Labour Market Policy and Programmes Branch Program 2001

SUMMARY
The Internal Management & Operations Program and the Labour Market Policy and Programs for 2001 was presented by the Department of Labour. The issue of skills development for the South African workforce was a major topic of discussion.

MINUTES
Public Hearings in the Provinces

Mr Fenyane opened the meeting with the announcement that the Committee would be holding public hearings in the provinces on 21 & 22 June 2001. The hearings would focus on standards for labour inspectors, labour conditions and implementing the Employment Equity Act, affirmative action and skills development and training. The schedule starts in the rural provinces and moves to the Northern Province, then Mpumalanga, then Gauteng on this initial trip. They will eventually go through Eastern Cape, North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Northern Cape and Western Cape in that order. The Chair stressed that the information from these hearings should be used in the upcoming NCOP plenary session.

Discussion
Ms B Dlulane (ANC, Eastern Cape) commented that the hearings would be a great opportunity to reconnect with the people of the communities and not to take their opinions for granted. The Committee should always be listening to those who suffer. The Committee ought to inform the provinces of their visit and give them ample time to prepare information and requests.

Mr Fenyane stressed the importance of visiting Gauteng, despite their focus on the rural economy. He expressed his displeasure with his last few visits to Gauteng and noted that not everything was the way it ought to be there. He also posed the topic of illegal immigration labour during these upcoming hearings.

Mr M Moosa (ANC, Gauteng) stressed the importance of labour unions in monitoring the activity of illegal aliens in the workforce. This was a huge problem in Gauteng and that the Department of Home Affairs was having difficulty handling it. The Department of Labour should step in where the other Department falls short. A high-profile investigation of illegal immigrants during the public hearings was suggested.

Ms C Botha (DP, Free State) replied to Moosa’s comments by expressing her concern that the hearings would turn into a witch-hunt for illegal aliens. She felt that this was not a duty of the Department of Labour and, therefore, they should remain out of such matters.

Mr Fenyane replied that unemployment is certainly a matter for the Committee and thus illegal immigrant labour is an issue in its scope as well. Moosa added that it is not xenophobia that they are trying to create; it is governance. He also explained that illegal immigrants are often the most vulnerable of the workers because of their position. He noted that the monitoring of illegal immigrants is very unorganised.

Program of Action for 2001
Director General Ramashia introduced the plan of action for the Department of Labour in the upcoming year. The standards for labour inspectors require more attention. He introduced the new strategy for the coming year of the Department—the integration of labour and safety. The Minister of Labour proclaimed the year 2001 as the Year of Law Enforcement for labour, indicating a stricter approach to labour standards of safety, procedure and working conditions.

DG Ramashia saw a shift away from the post-Apartheid plan of the late 1990s toward a new 5-year plan that focused on the following:
-Review of labour market policies (as per the Millennium Conference Deal)
-Skills development and unleashing the Skills Revolution, particularly starting training programs in townships.
-Implementing the Employment Equity Act with a focus on employees with HIV/AIDS.
-Protecting vulnerable workers, particularly domestic and farm workers, from being exploited.
-Social safety, which includes social security, unemployment insurance and compensation for worker injuries.
-Occupational safety.
-Stable labour relations in the work place, including co-operation with labour unions and a reduction of violent strikes (already a trend in 2000).

Internal Management and Operations Programme – 2001

Dr V M Mkosana presented the first programme in the plan, the Internal Management and Operations Programme. He focused on six primary areas:
1)Occupational Health and Safety
2)Compensation Fund
3)Administration
4)Human Resources Management
5)Service Delivery (a new initiative for 2001)
6)Provincial Priorities
According to the plan presented by Dr Mokosana, the six main areas all have comprehensive one-year and five-year objectives to fulfil.

See PowerPoint presentation "Internal Management & Operations Programme – 2001" for objectives specifics.

Labour Market Policy and Programmes – Branch Programme 2001
Mr Les Kettledas, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Labour, presented the Labour Market Policy and Programmes, the Branch Programme for 2001. The presentation contained fifteen main points of focus for labour policy in the coming year:
1) Balancing security and flexibility
2) Increasing employment
3) Implementing the resolutions of the Presidential Job Summit
4) Forming a skills development strategy
5) Implementing employment equity
6) Protecting of vulnerable workers
7) Creating an adequate social safety net
8) Reducing workplace accidents and improving worker health and safety
9) Promoting stable labour relations
10)Increasing productivity
11)Strengthening social partnerships
12)Improving international relations
13)Monitoring policy’s impact on society
14)Restructuring business institutions
15)Amending specific employment legislation

Mr Kettledas made it clear that the Department of Labour would work diligently to ensure that those who are retrenched would be trained with new skills so they may re-enter the workforce as quickly as possible. He gave the example of Transkei and Ciskei mine workers that are moving away from Gauteng back to Umtata after they have lost their jobs. The Department of Labour is funding that region to search for new employment opportunities and create new training programs.

Discussion
Mr Kettledas felt that the increase of "casual" workers had to be controlled, those who have an atypical employment relationship that is permanent but are being paid as temporary to avoid taxes. Certain businesses are now hiring workers as "independent contractors" to avoid having to comply with employment regulations.

Mr M Moosa (ANC, Gauteng) wondered how the Department of Labour would assist in retraining labourers. Do skills development programs have the co-operation of the private sector and educational institutions?

Mr Fenyane also added a question concerning the communication between the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Education and the Department of Labour.

Mr Z Kolweni (ANC, North West) wanted to know how the casualisation of jobs was taking place in well-established businesses. He also wanted to know how practical it would be for the Department of Labour to support the provinces without the aid of NEDLAC.

DG Ramashia replied to these questions. He noted that the co-ordination of communication, both interdepartmentally and with private sector/educational institutions. The Department of Labour wanted to create more manufacturing-based skills such as engineering and computer science technology. Production was increasing, but jobs were decreasing, which meant that the jobs that the market needed were not being filled by South Africans but by foreigners instead. This was because of a mismatch between skills and labour.

Dr B Willem (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked about the current nature of statutory bodies.

Mr Kettledas informed him that there were quite a few still operating very effectively: NEDLAC, CCMA, the EEC, and others. They assist in setting up acts for the Committees to discuss and bring before the two houses of Parliament. Casualisation, an unlawful practice, must be carefully monitored via strict legislation. The same crackdown approach should apply to those who take advantage of the worker probation system (sick leave).

Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked how the Department of Labour deals with companies that do not recognise labour unions. Kettledas replied that employers are never required to recognise unions, but all employers must consult with their workers before changing any of their benefits or pay. The most efficient way of communicating with workers is via their respective labour unions.

Ms C Botha (DP, Free State) commented that there was not enough funding to retrain workers. She gave the example of mine workers in the Free State. She recommended using agriculture as an option for new employment.

Kettledas responded that such was not the case and that each municipality could access up to R50 000 to fund research for employment opportunities and training programs.

DG Ramashia noted that the Social Plan for employment restructuring was not a panacea for social problems. Rather, it is the only plan currently attempting to meet the employment needs of the expanding South African economy with proficiently trained South African workers.

The meeting was adjourned.

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