Employers face legal action after labour blitz

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cape Town - The Department of Labour is cracking down on employers who flout the labour laws, with 295 cases having recently been referred to the Labour Court and a further 415 cases to various magistrates courts, the Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant said today.

"We hope those that flout the laws will be successfully prosecuted," said Oliphant, who today briefed journalists in Parliament following her budget vote speech this morning.

Inspectors visited 15 833 employers -- more than double the department's target of 7 250 inspections, during a year-long blitz.

In all, 72% of employers inspected were found to be complying with labour laws.

Oliphant said the department had targeted "problematic sectors" such as agriculture and forestry, as well as the hospitality, retail and private security sectors.

She said the department would continue to target the farm and forestry, as well as retail sectors.

To emphasise why farms were being targeted, Oliphant pointed to a recent blitz in KwaZulu-Natal where just two out of the 12 farms labour inspectors had visited were found to be fully compliant with the country's labour laws.

In her budget vote speech, Oliphant emphasised that her department was strengthening its inspectorate and that an allocation of R60 million over the next two years had been set aside by the National Treasury in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework to create more inspectors' posts at specialist levels.

Turning to the new Public Employment Services Bill, Oliphant said her department had registered 497 714 job sectors up to December 31 last year.

"The service was able to link 70% of these registered job seekers to career counselling, skills development interventions, work placement opportunities, unemployment insurance fund (UIF) and compensation fund benefits," she said.

Career guidance services were also undertaken for nursing colleges in Gauteng, saving R2 million in recruitment costs, she said, adding that the service was also extended to ex-offenders, co-operatives members and small business owners.

In the period up to March 2011, the UIF paid benefits totalling R5.3 billion to 693 000 people, compared to R5.7 billion to 779 604 beneficiaries the previous year, said Oliphant.

She said the fund had invested R35 billion (or 67%) of its R52 billion portfolio in government, municipal and parastatal bonds (including an investment in the Industrial Development Corporation through the purchase of a R2 billion bond last year), as well as money-market instruments that support infrastructure projects aimed at creating jobs.

"The fund has identified a number of projects in pursuit of the decent work agenda in South Africa. The contribution of the fund comprises both commercial and social responsibility investment," she said.

Added to this, the Compensation Fund has invested R9 billion in support of investment in infrastructure projects aimed at creating jobs, she said.

Oliphant said the department's various branches and public entities had also outlined plans to create 54 000 jobs and save 156 800 jobs in distressed companies and sectors through training initiatives and place over two million work seekers in jobs over the next three years.

Oliphant said the four labour-law proposals published at the end of last year - the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill, Employment Equity Amendment Bill and the Employment Services Bill - were still being debated at Nedlac.

However, she said she was concerned that the proposals had not yet been finalised and that she would meet with the government's social partners to fast track input into the bills.

She said a key point of contention was around section 42 on the Employment Equity Amendment Bill - where dispute has arisen over whether affirmative action would be applied according to national or provincial demographics.

Oliphant said to get around this, the department is proposing that reference to both "national and regional (relating to the respective district)" demographics be taken out, and in its place, allowing the employer to choose between either the national and regional demographics.

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