Budget Vote Speech by the Honourable Minister of Labour, Membathisi Mdladlana, Parliament, Cape Town
19 Jun 2009
Honourable Members of Parliament
Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow South Africans
When I addressed Parliament in the departments Budget Vote debate on 15 May 2008, I dedicated my speech to those workers of this country who died at their workplaces because of preventable accidents. It is with regret and deep sadness that I have to do the same this year.
Over 80 workers died in Welkom. They were buried alive. Kode kubeninina sikhala sinxakama sinqada. Kode kubeninina abasebenzi besifa ngolunya ngoluhlobo. Kunini singcwaba, kunini silila siziphethe ngeenkophe izifuba zihubahuba. Ngathi ithuba lokubambisana lifikile. Le ayisafuni bahloli ifuna kuqulwe kuliwe luluntu jikelele. Baphina abantu! Safa isizwe zizandawana namaxhwili; safa isizwe, lafa uluntu, bafaabantu, bafa kubukelwe, bafa simangalisiwe bafa sithe nkamalala.
Naxa kunjalo ke akulahlwa mbeleko ngakufelwa. Utsho no S.E.K. Mqhayi "Kufo'mnye kakade, mini kwakhiw'omnye, kukhanza mnye zekuphile abanye."
Mhlali-ngaphambili, sibila sisoma siphucula ukusebenza ngengqiniseko kwabahloli bethu side saqesha intsumpa yabo jikelele u Thobile Lamati ukuqinisekisa nokunyanzelisa ukuthotyelwa komthetho. Ilishwa nje lelokuba abahloli bayabaleka baya kumathafa aluhlaza. Ukunqanda oku siye saphakamisa nje ngokuncinane amanqwanqwa okwamkela kwabo. Akulula ukubanqanda bangahambi kuba ayininzanga imali abayamkelayo. Akulula ke ukuguqula le meko leli sebe ngenxa yezigaba ezilandelwayo nguRhulumente kwanothethwano nemibutho yabasebenzi oluhamba ngokonwabu ngamanye amaxesha.
Despite this challenge, we have realised our vision of establishing a balance between conducting inspections (quantity) and conducting meaningful sustainable inspections (quality). 153 697 workplaces were visited across the country and the compliance level has increased by five percent from 78% in 2007/08 to 83% in 2008/09. Furthermore, in line with this vision several inspectors were trained to enforce substantive compliance with the requirements of the Employment Equity Act.
It is clear to me that our enforcement mechanisms have to be reviewed. It cannot be business as usual. Unemployment Insurance Fund/Compensation Commission needs audit inspectors. Employment equity needs Human Resources specialists to do inspections. Specialist inspectors are needed to conduct investigations. Lastly inspections by government must be integrated – those of health, mines and Department of Labour should work together. Working together we can do more.
The house should note that in the previous financial year, career guidance councillors were appointed. Their main function is to provide counselling services mainly to assist unemployed people to access sustainable livelihoods in the labour market. We further undertook to invest more in the acquisition of artisan and technical skills during the past year. The SETA's were able to register 17 228 artisans in training and over one hundred thousand (109 351) workers completed training in scarce and critical skills through learnerships, apprenticeships and other learning programmes. Targets were well exceeded in this area.
With funding from the National Skills Fund, the department was able to assist 41 336 unemployed people to enter learning programmes. This was also in excess of the target of 16 000 that was set. During these difficult economic circumstances, the presence of a reliable social protection system becomes a necessity.It is thus important to have measures in place to cushion the effects of harsh economic conditions. For the past year ending March 2009, there were 300 000 more contributors (7,6 million) on the database of the Unemployment Insurance Fund compared to the end of March 2008 (7,3 million). However, the Unemployment Insurance Fund paid benefits to 627 244 beneficiaries to a total amount of R3,8 billion. A 31,7% increase in unemployment benefit payments compared to the previous year. This is a clear reflection of the impact of the current economic crisis and is continuing. To respond to this challenge, we intend to increase the period of benefits from 8 to 12 months whilst also increasing the monetary benefits. We are also looking at the possibility of including civil servants. All these recommendations will require legislative amendments.
As part of improving benefits to our citizens I have tasked the Fund to look at the Unemployment Insurance Act. Although there is some progress in the restructuring of the Compensation Fund, I am not at all satisfied. As Mao once said "We should check our complacency and constantly criticise out shortcomings, just as we should wash our face or sweep the floor everyday to remove the dirt and keep them clean."
A lot of dirt and a lot of sweeping will have to take place at the compensation fund. The portfolio committee must assist me to do this. Be that as it may, the fund has finalised the design of its management structure and additional persons have been appointed. A fully decentralised model of Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) operations are currently being piloted in the Eastern Cape and a second pilot is being established in Limpopo. At present, all COIDA payments are being made electronically rather than by cheque and fraud has been reduced.
The world is in a global financial, economic and social crisis spreading like wild fire at high speed. Unfortunately South Africa has not been spared. Job losses are mounting and poverty is deepening. Two hundred thousand jobs were lost between the last quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of this year. It is also likely to have impact in the informal employment thereby worsening existing problems of vulnerability in our labour market.
The situation calls for a concerted and coherent response, by government working together with our social partners. A response that will contribute to the creation of decent jobs; sustainable enterprises; respect for workers rights and protection of vulnerable people. Sceptics will say that the ship has already sailed and whatever we do will be too little too late. Such responses pay little attention to those whose jobs remain under threat and to many who find themselves unemployed and whose situation is unlikely to change without support from government and other social formations.
Over the past three months, we have been engaging in structured interaction with organised labour and business to look at concrete, short-term responses that can help us to lessen the impact of the negative economic conditions that we face, but also to find ways to strengthen our economy and position it to take full advantage of the upturn in economic activity when this comes.
As the joint statement by the social partner's states, "We need social solidarity between all South Africans to ensure that the crisis does not damage the fabric of our society. Those with greater means have a responsibility to those without such means. Our collective responsibility is to work together to withstand the crisis and ensure that the poor and most vulnerable are protected as far as possible from its impact. We must also ensure that the economy is ready to take advantage of the next upturn and that the benefits of such growth are shared by all our people."
In this regard, the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has been working very hard in dealing with retrenchments and helping parties to find alternatives to retrenchments.Using section 189 and 189a of the Labour Relations Act CCMA commissioners facilitated consultation between employers and workers in larger companies that were considering retrenchment due to operational reasons.
Between January and March 2009, CCMA commissioners were involved in approximately 124 consultation processes that saved over 4 000 jobs saved because workers and employers were able to agree to alternatives to retrenchments.The Productivity South Africa will also be instructed to expand on its social plan programme to the economic crisis and to utilise their 10 years experience that saved more jobs 96 000 jobs in agriculture, steel and metal and clothing and textile. I know that they have done a sterling job and can also help other sectors in distress.
Our employment services have been facing increased demands over the past few months from companies in distress and retrenched workers. Demand for counselling has increased in some areas and there has been an increased need for assistance in accessing unemployment benefits. We expect this to continue and the Department’s employment services will need to cope with the demand as well as provide skills development and job placement services.
The Training Layoff that was referred to in the President's State of the Nation address is an initiative that we are also closely involved in. Discussions are being held with the CCMA, the SETA’s, IDC, NSF, UIF and social partners to find ways of making available training opportunities to workers under threat of retrenchment. The aim would be to retain the workers under a modified contract of employment, whilst they are being trained and being paid an allowance. We are also exploring the possibility of providing benefits from the credits that workers have in unemployment insurance fund to those who are willing to participate.
In order for this to succeed we will have to secure an agreement with trade unions and employers organisations. In pursuit of decent work, our first priority is the need for jobs. I believe we must strive for a mutually inseparable approach of ensuring that job creation and enterprise development are viewed in an integrated manner; that the workers enjoy social protection; that standards and rights at work are respected.
Honourable speaker there are many more hills to climb and we intend to make this new journey with more conviction and determination. One of those hills is the strengthening and roll-out of an employment service system to all labour centres. Indeed to do this we need to climb hills, cross rivers and dongas be it IT systems, computers, office and additional staff members.
We will continue to provide information and referrals to training for unemployed persons including equipping them with the necessary skills in various skills development learning programmes. We have committed ourselves to register a minimum of 6 500 work seekers on our database and to place fifty percent of them, to ensure that a minimum of 12 000 persons participate in artisan trade testing and at least 12 500 new trainee artisans register, that at least 52 000 employed and unemployed learners are supported in scarce skills programmes, at least 90 000 unemployed people participate in skills programme, at least 2 000 young people are assisted to enter into new Venture Creation Programme and 63 000 successfully complete these programmes by end of March 2010.
This is the hill that we are committed to climb. Of course we may have to transfer some of these services to the new Department of Higher Education and Training. The new Department of Higher Education and Training is part of the government's attempt to integrate education and training and further drive to consolidate and do more in serving our people.
We are involved in discussions that are aimed at ensuring a smooth transition, to avoid possible loss of momentum and see how best we can safeguard the future of working places as learning sites. There are some legal aspects that we may come to parliament with for Honourable members to assist with by amending certain sections of the existing Skills Development Act. We have also concluded discussions with the Minister in the Presidency with regard to the transfer of Umsobomvu Youth Fund to the National Youth Development Agency.
The work that flows from the transfer process of functions to the new department will not, however, interrupt some of the processes currently underway that the law requires us to comply with. These include the reconstitution of the National Skills Authority, the review of the SETA landscape and the development of the National Skills Development Strategy amongst others. We need to establish a Task Team led by the respective Department Acting Directors General and I will keep the portfolio committee updated on these developments.
We will review our labour laws. During the last year a research report investigating the quality of jobs being created, concluded that South Africa has a significant decent work deficit. The study undertaken by researchers at the National Labour and Economic Development Institute (NALEDI) together with the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group (LEP) at the University of Cape Town examined the kind of jobs that have been created through a series if sector based case studies and an examination of official statistics.
The lens through which these jobs were examined was the International Labour Organisation’s decent work concept. While the study did not reveal violations of the core labour standards such as forced labour or child labour, it did find substantial evidence of jobs being created with little security and which make the exercise of rights contained in labour legislation very difficult if not impossible. There were many other findings which led the researchers to conclude that we have a decent work deficit.
Mr Speaker, it is clear that the first issue that we have to clarify in taking forward the decent work agenda is how we deal with temporary employment services. Incidentally, the sector does not create jobs, it responds to the demands of labour by existing employers.
Fundamentally, the kinds of jobs into which people are placed by some temporary employment agencies are ones that should conform to the basic principles of decent work. Contracts of employment as well as conditions of employment into which these workers are placed have to be consistent with the Bill of Rights in our constitution and with our labour legislation. It is clear that the temporary employment sector is a significant one and that there are different practices within it.
Some in the sector adhere to ILO standards and go further than the requirements of our labour legislation while others fragrantly undermine health and safety regulations and minimum requirements in terms of conditions of employment. Access to social security, like unemployment insurance and provident funds, is also a problem for many workers. These are issues we have to deal with in a way that extends protection to temporary workers and ensure that they have the same rights as others in their work situations. I intend to go to Cabinet before the end of 2009 with proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act to deal with this issue.
Amendments to other labour laws may also be necessary. The implementation of the Employment Equity Act could be improved through further amendments as suggested by the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE). The department will soon be publishing revised regulations dealing with the employment equity plan and report.There may also be changes required in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act to further protect the employment relationship, especially for workers in vulnerable sectors.
I intend to initiate an investigation to establish a provident fund in a sectoral determination for domestic and farm workers. We will also have to consider strengthening freedom of association for farm workers to ensure that their constitutional right to belong to trade unions of their choice can be properly exercised.
Mandiqongqothe ndifince intetho yam ngokwamkela amalungu amatsha ale komiti ngakumbi ilungu elihloniphekileyo u Lumka Yengeni uMamzangwa inkosikazi yakwaHlathi ethe yatyunjwa ukuba ibe ngusihlalo. Ndinethemba elikhulu lokuba sizakusebenza kunye ngokuzimisela ekuqabeleni kweli qhina nale nduli kaxakeka ime bhuxe phambi kwethu. Xa sibambisene singenza lukhulu.
Ndigqibele ngokubulela ndileleza kubasebenzi beli sebe lezemisebenzi. Nantso ke zidwesha maqobo nani maqobokazana rholani iimela zenu niyihlinze nabele isizwe sihluthe izisu zibe yimipatsiya.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Labour
19 June 2009
Source: Department of Labour (http://www.labour.gov.za)
Issued by: Department of Labour
19 Jun 2009
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