ATC121129: Report of the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on an Oversight Visit to the Sheltered Employment Factories in Pietermaritzburg and Jacobs, in KwaZulu-Natal, dated 27 November 2012.

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

Report of the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on an Oversight Visit to the Sheltered Employment Factories in Pietermaritzburg and Jacobs, in KwaZulu-Natal, dated 27 November 2012

Report of the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on an Oversight Visit to the Sheltered Employment Factories in Pietermaritzburg and Jacobs, in KwaZulu-Natal, dated 27 November 2012.

1. Background

During the Committee’s strategic planning session held this year (2012), it was decided that the Committee would ensure that it visited as many of the Sheltered Employment Factories ( SEFs ) in South Africa as its schedule allowed. This would assist the Committee as well as the Department of Labour in ensuring that all these factories achieve their objectives.

During January 2012, the Committee visited the SEF in Port Elizabeth and the one at Ndabeni in Western Cape . During 24 - 26 October 2012, the Committee visited the SEFs located in KwaZulu-Natal , i.e. Oribi Branch in Pietermaritzburg (PMB) and Jacobs in Durban .

2. Delegation

The delegation of the Committee comprised Mrs MP Themba (Chairperson and Leader of the delegation), Mrs L Mabija , Mr MP Sibande , Mr MP Jacobs, Mr HB Groenewald, Mr Z Mlenzana , Mr O de Beer and Prince MMM Zulu.

3. Support Staff

Ms PH Sibisi , Committee Secretary; Mrs R Barreto , Committee Researcher and Mr G Mankay , Committee Assistant, accompanied the delegation.

4. Sheltered Employment Factory at Oribi - Pietermaritzburg

The Committee undertook oversight visits to the Sheltered Employment Factory (SEF) trading under the name Service Products at Oribi in Pietermaritzburg ( KwaZulu-Natal ).

The factory was found to be very neat and a good place to work in. The Committee learnt that the Oribi Village (where the SEF is located) is owned by the Department of Housing, which seldom comes to do any cleaning. The SEF always does its own cleaning in order to ensure that the premises are conducive to working.

The woodwork section had 49 employees of which 6 were newly appointed.

The factory experienced staff shortages which were due to the fact that if and when old employees retire/resign, they were not replaced. There are very few young employees, and most employees were 40 years of age or older.

The factory found it very hard to transform due to the fact that historically the factory was mainly for white people who did not leave the employ of the factory other than if they died or retired. At the same time the factory had no capacity to employ more disabled people unless positions became available.

All administrative work was centralised in Pretoria . Orders are placed in Pietermaritzburg but are sent to Pretoria to be processed. In the past there was a 6 to 8 week delay in the processing of the orders, but this is no longer the case.

There were no operations taking place in the woodwork section. This was due to the factory having no raw material for such operations. The factory had been assisting the East London branch which had a big order to be completed. The reason that the Pietermaritzburg branch assists the East London branch with its orders, is because some operations are specialised in Pietermaritzburg and not in East London .

There was no transport to take the employees to and from work because most of the factory staff was staying in the Oribi Village (within the premises). There were those who stayed away from the village and were using public transport, which the Committee found to be unacceptable. Those employees complained that they could not afford to pay their transport fees. One employee gave the Committee an example that he was using R30 per day for transport and his monthly salary was R4 500. The factory management told the Committee that the factory was not self-sufficient and was largely dependent on the Department of Labour for the transfer of grants and therefore could not afford to increase salaries.

The Committee felt that factory management and employees were doing a good job, although there was not enough work for the factory. The factory employees stressed that they were satisfied with the general conditions of their employment but for a few minor problems that they experienced.

The factory manufactures furniture for schools, households and also makes office furniture. The factory also sold furniture to the public. In marketing its business, the factory staff volunteered to distribute flyers during their own time. The factory also produced clothing and bedding material for government hospitals in the province.

Employees’ gross salaries ranged from R3 360 to R4 000 per month. There were complaints from the factory employees that they are paid too little for the hard physical work that they do. Most of the employees have long service which ranges from 16 to 30 years and which means that there are very few new or young people employed at the factory.

Ms Christien Maskell , the factory Manager, advised the delegation that the factory did not have enough funding to employ more individuals even though there are hundreds of applicants who apply when a post is advertised. She mentioned that it was sad that the factory had the capacity to employ more people but that they needed additional funding to do so.

Regarding safety and security, the factory employees were trained to always use protective clothing and safety shoes. They were also trained with regard to safety procedures when operating factory machines.

5. Sheltered Employment Factory in Jacobs – Durban

The factory had a staff complement of 105, of which 80% are people with mental disabilities. Twenty per cent are people with physical disabilities but all of them could walk because of the kind of work done in the factory.

The Jacobs SEF hardly gets support from the government. The factory had recently recruited young employees from special schools and through the Department of Labour. The ages of the new recruits ranged from 18 to 22 years. Marketing was done primarily through word of mouth. There are evaluation forms for new recruits. Every time an employee leaves because of retirement or death, the factory recruits people of colour rather than white people.

There is no accommodation for the employees because most of them live within the radius of 20 to 25 kilometres from the factory.

The factory produces woodwork and textile products. Staff in the Jacobs SEF was required to multitask. In other words, if there was no textile work, the women would be required to work in the woodwork section. Furniture in this factory is SABS approved and the factory was capable and self-sufficient.

The factory was busy with a school furniture project for schools in the Eastern Cape . It is a three-year project and they had already started delivering school desks.

6. Recommendations

The Committee recommends that SEFs need a centralised transformation plan. The Department of Labour should assist the SEFs in ensuring transformation.

Government needed to relook the procurement policies of government departments. Unless these SEFs get government support, they will battle to survive.

Government should reconsider the funding of these SEFs as it is clear that funds were a serious challenge.

Young people with disabilities need to be recruited so that they can benefit from the training and become skilled employees. This would necessitate adequate funding.

The Committee proposes a revision of the salary scales for factory employees or consider a subsidised accommodation scheme as some employees were paying almost two thirds of their salaries towards rent and transport fares.

The Committee also recommended that the factory needed an aggressive marketing strategy to ensure younger people are recruited into the system, which will in return transfer skills.

SEFs may consider offering in-service training for young scholars in ensuring a skilled and vibrant workforce for the future.

The factory needed to advertise their furniture to the public more aggressively as they made South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) approved furniture. This would benefit the factories and allow them to become more self-sufficient.

Report to be considered.


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