Labour minister decries exploitation of displaced foreign nationals by employers

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Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has decried the exploitation of displaced foreign nationals and desperate locals by employers.

The minister highlighted the retail and wholesale sectors as culprits.

He says exploitation has a negative impact on the ever increasing unemployment rate in the country.

Nxesi was speaking at the opening of a labour centre at EmaXesibeni in the Eastern Cape.

The labour centre will service the employees in the Alfred Nzo area.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund and labour disputes will be prioritised.

Nxesi raised concern about the disregard of labour laws and the exploitation of foreign nationals by employers.

He says they have established programmes to deal with companies that exploit workers.

“What we are seeing now are employers who want to boost their profits, who do not want to pay the minimum wage, who do not want to respect the labour laws. They employ those desperate workers who are coming from the other countries because they have been displaced by the wars and they are ready to work at any time starting at six o’clock and end up at 12 o’clock which is far beyond what has been regulated in the law. We now have our inspections. We are going to come en mass and we’ll deal with these employers, whether they are black or white. We have to deal with them.”

The labour minister believes the new centre will address the many challenges rural communities face.

He also encouraged labour unions to unite for workers’ rights.

“Mass information and education to the workers is important. That’s why I always say to the workers, not because of my background from the trade union movement, I say forming trade unions is very important. The fact that we are seated with the unions so divided, fighting amongst themselves today is very unfortunate. It disadvantages the workers because those trade unions, those shop stewards are supposed to be our eyes and ears in those shops which we are talking about. Once they become weak, it means we are going to compromise the workers.”

Informal sector can boost the economy

The Eastern Cape Economic Development MEC Mlungisi Mvoko says the informal sector can help to curb joblessness and boost the economy.

“The informal sector actually offers a lot of jobs and a lot of employment and you could see during COVID it was not really catered for – even in terms of the relief schemes that were there. That is why we have now budgeted R40 million to ensure that we will partner with local government to identify those people that are in the informal sector and to identify how we could assist them to perform better in terms of what they are doing, how do we capacitate them. So that is how we would be dealing with unemployment, but I think it must be linked to how we support and how we procure as a province.”

Learnership programmes

The Employment and Labour Department has, through the Unemployment Insurance Fund, partnered with Walter Sisulu University to implement learnership programmes for over 5 000 students in the Eastern Cape. These learnership programmes will run over a period of three years, about 300 students from the Alfred Nzo district are expected to benefit.

Meanwhile, the Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers’ Union (DETAWU) – over the weekend – launched a nationwide campaign to strengthen its bargaining power to deal with the challenges faced by its sectors. The union says it has been strengthened by Nxesi’s assertion that if shop stewards were effective, the industry would have prioritised hiring more locals than foreign nationals.

Unions want policies that prioritise South Africans: