ATC110803: Report on Oversight visit to Mitchells Plain Labour Centre
Report of the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on Oversight visit to Mitchells Plain Labour Centre, dated 3 August 2011
The Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises undertook to conduct oversight visits to all labour centres. The first visit was conducted on 11 August 2010. Due to time constraints the Committee managed to visit two branches of the Western Cape, namely Cape Town and Bellville.
The last labour centre to be visited was the Mitchells Plain branch. This branch was visited on 29 June 2011.
The Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises decided to undertake an oversight visit to labour centres in order to assess the work of the Department of Labour (DoL) against priorities as set in the strategic plan of 2010-2015. The strategic plan includes the following:
- The provincial offices and labour centres for improved and effective service delivery;
- Evaluate whether the Department has empowered its access points staff in delivering the entire suite of the DoL’s services and information inclusive of employment services, social security and labour protection services;
- Evaluate whether mechanisms have been put in place by the Department in order to improve access to services and information and in addition to assess whether the Department has integrated service delivery centres close to the people and put in place multiple access channels across the country;
- Assess whether both the Employment Services System and the Inspectorate Enforcement Case Management System have been enhanced in order to respond to clients’ needs and expectations for access to services and information
- Assess whether measures have been put in place to encourage continuous learning and improvement, and innovation by those serving at the point of contact with the client.
The delegation of the committee was composed of Mrs MP Themba, MP (Chairperson and leader of the delegation); Mr MP Sibande, MP; Mr HBGroenewald, MP; Mr Z Mlenzana, MP; Mr O de Beer, MP; Ms PH Sibisi (Committee Secretary); Mrs R Barreto (Committee Researcher); and Ms Z France (Committee Assistant).
The Committee noticed that the complaints and challenges the Mitchells Plain Labour Centre had were similar to those of the Cape Town and Bellville Labour Centres.
4.1. Mitchells Plain Labour Centre
This office deals with claims such as:
- Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF);
- Adoption; and
Upon arrival the Committee saw long queues, mostly UIF applicants. The office manager was not present. He was alleged to be attending a meeting at the Cape Town office and therefore the Committee was received by a designated official. The official could hardly respond to the questions since she was only assisting in the absence of the office manager. The Committee found this situation to be unacceptable.
The Committee noticed the following during the visit:
- The office had seven cubicles but only two had staff assisting clients. This was unacceptable as it causes clients to wait several hours for assistance.
- The attitude of staff towards visitors was very unpleasant.
- Most employees were not wearing their name tags which made it difficult for an outside person to identify them as individuals who may offer help.
- People are not verbally guided as to where they should queue to obtain the appropriate attention. As a result, they end up queuing in the wrong queue for hours and/or are sent from pillar to post.
- There was no assistance offered to people while filling out the appropriate forms and the forms are not user friendly, especially for individuals who are illiterate or who do not speak English as a first language.
- All the signage in the office was only in English.
- There were no clear signs for direction inside the offices. As a result some people found themselves in the wrong queues which can be a waste of time.
- Official equipments, e.g. stamps, were left unattended, which could easily be stolen by an outsider.
- A number of UIF beneficiaries complained of not receiving their benefits for a lengthy period of time.
- There were no special queues for pregnant women, people with infants, the disabled and elderly people. These vulnerable groups were in the long queues, waiting for four to five hours.
- Clients complained of waiting long for the money to be paid into their accounts. Sometimes files went missing, which further delayed the process as the applicants had to reapply. This could be attributed to a poor filing system (files are dumped in huge, unmanageable piles on the floor).
- One client complained to the Committee about a labour centre employee who had previously assisted UIF clients. The complaint was that the official answered her cellphone while processing the forms, hence the forms were wrongly processed. The complainant alleged that the money she received was far less than expected. The client advised that this mistake could have been avoided if the official had applied her mind to her work.
- Offices were very untidy and toilets were dirty.
- Offices were congested with poor/non-existent filing systems.
- Identity Documents (IDs) that had apparently been accidentally left behind by clients were left lying unattended, which was found to be gross negligence.
- The attendance register was unsigned, which indicated that there was no proper control in terms of employee attendance.
5. Meeting with some members of staff
The officials were of the opinion that the problems identified emanated from the following challenges that made it difficult for them to do their job efficiently and effectively:
- Name tags that staff use fall off and were therefore mostly not used.
- Office space was too limited for the office to have filing cabinets for a proper filing system.
- The office was burgled recently and most of the computers had been stolen, which caused some of the staff members not to have computers for form capturing.
- The cleaner comes once a week and sometimes does not come at all, which could have resulted in the untidy offices and dirty toilets. The process of hiring a permanent cleaner was under way.
6. Challenges faced by Inspectors
The following challenges were faced by inspectors:
- There was no office space for inspectors which was a huge challenge. This caused files to be unsecured.
- Inspectors found that employees at the workplaces that they inspected were not taught the basics in terms of labour legislation that protected their rights and as a result, employers took advantage of them.
- The vehicles used by inspectors were not suited to certain weather conditions, especially in farming areas, and it was difficult for the inspectors to access certain areas when the weather was bad or where access required a certain type of vehicle.
- There has to be an electronic filing system to avoid loss of files and office congestion.
- The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems of the centres have to be audited to ascertain if they need upgrading in order to provide an efficient service.
- The staff establishment of these labour centres has to be reviewed so as to be aligned to their revised mandate.
- The Committee noted that some of the challenges could be addressed immediately by the labour centres. These included the assignment of the floor manager to guide and assist the clients. In addition, the floor manager would have to ensure that the vulnerable groups were prioritised using the “express queues”. These vulnerable groups would include the elderly, the disabled and pregnant women.
- The language spoken in the area was of paramount importance and therefore floor managers should be multi-lingual in order to accommodate all people who use the labour centre services.
- The filing system has to be improved to avoid the loss of documents.
- “Lost IDs” have to be sent back to owners. There should be immediate follow-up with the client in this regard.
- The hiring of the permanent cleaner should be fast-tracked.
- Khayelitsha should have its own labour centre since Mitchells Plain is overcrowded. It is expensive for the unemployed to travel to Mitchells Plainfrom Khayelitsha.
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