ATC121130: Report of the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on an Unannounced Oversight Visit to the Sheltered Employment Factory at Ndabeni in the Western Province, dated 27 November 2012.

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Report of the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on an Unannounced Oversight Visit to the Sheltered Employment Factory at Ndabeni in the Western Province, dated 27 November 2012

Report of the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on an Unannounced Oversight Visit to the Sheltered Employment Factory at Ndabeni in the Western Province, dated 27 November 2012.

1. Background

The Committee visited the factory on 12 September 2012. The Sheltered Employment Factories ( SEFs ) were established more than 65 years ago to provide employment opportunities for those handicapped people who were unable to find employment in the open labour market due to the nature of their afflictions. There are more than 2.5 million handicapped people in South Africa and 10 to 15 per cent of this number requires an environment such as that provided by the Sheltered Employment Factories. Currently, 100 per cent of the workers in SEFs fit this profile. This is not merely a haven for the unemployed, but for those who cannot compete – often the emotionally or psychologically challenged.

The Department of Labour inherited the SEFs from the previous government and has in the recent past taken the bold step of embarking on a turnaround strategy, that is aimed at converting the SEFs into entities that:

• have a clear and definable legal status;

• operate as efficient entities; and

• serve to advance government’s national agenda on active participation in the economy of the country by people with disabilities.

Ownership of the factories is vested in the State through the Department of Labour, and they trade under the name SERVICE PRODUCTS . The primary purpose of the SEF is the economic empowerment of people with disabilities, and people with disabilities are the sole beneficiaries.  The SEF is a non-profit organisation.

The SEF has 12 factories across South Africa operat in g in 7 of the 9 prov in ces, with only Mpumalanga and Limpopo without these facilities.  Factories are located in Bloemfonte in , Cape Town , Durban , East London, Johannesburg , Kimberley , Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth , Potchefstroom and Pretoria .

2. Objectives

The Select Committee decided during its strategic planning session, held at the beginning of this year (2012), to investigate the working conditions at a number of SEFs in the country. As a result, the Committee undertook to conduct oversight visits to all the SEFs in order to assess that these factories achieve their objectives. The first visit of this kind was on 24-27 January 2012 where the Committee visited, among others, the Sheltered Employment Factories in the Eastern Cape . The Committee found that conditions in the SEF in the Eastern Cape were unsatisfactory and it decided to expand these visits to other factories in the country. The second leg of these visits was in the Western Cape on 12 September 2012 .

3. 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, and Mr HB Groenewald.

4. Support Staff

Ms PH Sibisi , Committee Secretary; Mrs R Barreto , Committee Researcher and Ms C Adams, Committee Assistant, accompanied the delegation.

5. Sheltered Employment Factory at Ndabeni

The Committee undertook an unannounced oversight visit to the Sheltered Employment Factory (SEF) trading under the name Service Products at Ndabeni in the Western Cape .

6. Findings

  • The factory employs 180 people with disabilities. The factory was not clean and the windows were also very dirty.

  • The Committee felt that factory employees were doing a good job, although the factory in a good physical state. 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 the Western Cape schools. The factory also produces clothing and bedding material for government hospitals in the province.

  • Employees’ salaries ranged from R3 000 to R4 000 a 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, which means that there are no new or young people employed in the shelter.

  • The factory Manager advised the delegation that the factory does not have enough funding to employ more individuals even though there are hundreds of applicants who apply when a post is advertised for factory employees. He said that it was a tragedy as the factory had the capacity to employ more people but that they needed additional funding to do so.

  • There was no lift that went to the Administration section of the building that the managers of the factory utilise. The Committee asked the factory Manager how these offices were accessed by individuals who were physically disabled and could not climb stairs. The Committee was informed that there had been multiple requests for a lift and eventually Public Works had advised that they would be conducting a “repair and replace” operation on the factory during December 2012. The request for a lift has been approved. The Committee was not satisfied with this explanation as the factory had not had a lift for many years which they considered to be a disgraceful situation.

  • The Committee promised to compile a report (about its oversight visits) and send it to the relevant departments.

7. Challenges

The Committee found that some buildings were inaccessible by people with disabilities.

The factory management said one of the biggest challenges facing the factory was the severe shortage of finance from government.

There were insufficient funds, and suppliers were not being paid. All the administrative decisions that affect the factory are taken in Pretoria and not in the Western Cape . This causes delays and affects the process of payments. The organisation merely does the manufacturing, and the split between the administrative processes and the manufacturing processes makes it difficult to run the factory efficiently. The sustainability of the factory depends largely on the accounts being paid on time.

8. Recommendations

The Committee recommends that government reconsiders the funding of these SEFs as it is clear that funds were a serious challenge.

The Committee is of the view that some buildings were dilapidated and posed a health hazard, which needed immediate attention. Repairs to assist disabled employees, such as lifts, should be given priority.

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 or a subsidised accommodation scheme for factory employees as some employees were paying almost two thirds of their salaries towards rent.

Report to be considered.


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