By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
PRETORIA, South Africa – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) finally conceded to the African National Congress (ANC) MPs in Parliament that a ban on labor broking will not be included in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill on August 1, 2012.
Despite being able to come into terms on important contract issues between labour brokers and their clients, COSATU failed to get an agreement for a complete and full ban, according to COSATU parliamentary officer Prakashnee Govender.
Labor brokering is the process where a person or a firm provides clients with temporary or casual workers. Labor brokers, instead of clients, directly hire employees.
Hiring a labor broker precludes the establishment of an employer-employee relationship between the client company and the workers; thus, their transactions fall outside the jurisdiction of labor courts.
ANC MPs argued that including a total prohibition on labor broking into the draft legislation would become a disincentive to employment and investment. For them and other labor broking proponents, such a ban will make it difficult for employers to hire temporary workers as employers would be directly liable to the latter and be forced to pay them on time. Contrast this to the present situation where labor brokers are allowed to bear the cost of paying employees when labor brokers’ clients cannot give wages yet.
Judge President of the Labour Court Dunstan Mlambo described labor brokers as synonymous with “bakkie brigades”. “Bakkie brigades are those who pick up workers from the streets to serve the clients. These employees are abused and receive a pittance for their work. If a labor broker, who had engaged workers for a client, failed to pay them, these employees have no recourse against the client because the client is not their employer,” he told a recent labor law conference.
Another point raised by Mlambo is that “labor broking fills the pocket of labor brokers at the expense of the employee, while the client gets the fruit of the employee’s labour, leaving the employee with no protection.” For every R100 paid by a client to a labor broker, only R30 is left for the worker. The worker receives neither pension nor medical benefit as the remaining money goes to the labor broker. “Allowing labour brokers to continue to place workers in terrible and uncertain working conditions on the contention that ‘half-a-loaf is better than none’ will only serve to alienate the working class and harden the attitudes of unions with labour broking. Yes, we need employment. But we also need decent work. In that way, at least the individual has dignity and spirit, and [it] gives him or her a sense of pride in being able to do an honest day’s work at decent pay,” Mlambo stressed out.
Meanwhile, Ms. Govender stays optimistic about COSATU’s fight against labor broking. Although COSATU failed to ban labor broking this year, she said that it remains an objective of COSATU to prohibit it. She hopes for the Parliament’s labour portfolio committee to reconsider the inclusion of the total ban in the Labor Bill during its meeting on August 7.
For further information, please see:
EastCoast Radio – Parliament to Thrash out Labour Laws – 7 August 2012
EastCoast Radio – SA ‘Heading for Trouble” Over Jobs – 6 August 2012
IOL – Cruelty of Labour Brokering is Unforgivable – 5 August 2012
SABC – Revisit the LRA and Register Labour Brokers – Labour Appeal Court – 2 August 2012
Business Day – COSATU Gives up on Ban on Labour Brokers – for now – 1 August 2012
IOL – SA Firms Avoid Labour Laws: Mlambo – 1 August 2012