Govt to spend R60m on monitoring labour brokers

mildred oliphant Govt to spend R60m on monitoring labour brokersGovernment will spend R60 million on monitoring labour brokers as it struggles to reach consensus on proposed legal amendments to the divisive practice.

The Department of Labour (DOL) has re-opened discussions on highly contested changes to labour broking legislation - saying business and labour still need to reach consensus.

Despite negotiating on the proposed amendments for years, the department says the National Economic and Development Labour Council (NEDLAC) is making “progress”.

According to Labour minister, Mildred Oliphant, while legal drafting on fixed term contracts, temporary employment agencies and part-time work has begun – final amendments will not be introduced anytime soon.

“I am sure that we all want certainty about the new legal framework as soon as possible and time is, therefore, of the essence.  But while speed in finalising the process is important, we would want a final product that enjoys the support of organised business and organised labour,” says Oliphant.

After several delays and heated public hearings, the Department of Labour (DOL) revealed proposed amendments to several pieces of labour legislation, including the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Employment Services Bill last year.

While trade federation, Cosatu, along with youth political organisations have called on government to introduce a widespread ban on labour broking, business organisations and the ICT sector have called for increasing regulation – saying a widespread ban could effectively destroy certain business sectors.

Oliphant, however, has ruled out self-regulation of the practice, saying labour legislation will be amended.

“Dealing with labour broking will require additions to labour legislation to provide added protection for employees on fixed term contracts, part-time and temporary employees. It will not be desirable to rely on self-regulation or codes of conduct to deal with the kind of abuses that have occurred,” said Oliphant.

Amendments to the Labour Relations Act, aim to regulate contract work through a proposed amendment which aims to stop the practice of repeated contracting for short-term periods. According to the Bill, the onus will be on employers to justify the use of short-term or fixed term contracts in place of contracting employees on a permanent basis.

The proposed changes also aim to address the problem of labour broking through clauses in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill which propose to repeal section 198 that deals with Temporary Employment Services (TES) in the Labour Relations Act. The DOL wants to introduce a new Employment Services Bill which will address both private and public employment services.

The amendments also propose a definition of the employer and employee in an attempt to give greater certainty to the employment relationship. As a result of the new definition of employer, no temporary employment service will be able to be the employer of workers that it places in work.

“As government, our intention is not to limit the right of persons to work in the way that they choose, but rather to ensure that workers on fixed term contracts have the same rights as other workers and that it is clear who the employer is when such a person works for a client.”

“Legal amendments to regulate fixed term contracts, temporary work, part-time work and the temporary employment agency sector is a major part of the reforms that we seek to introduce,” Oliphant explained.

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