Johannesburg - Many companies in South Africa use labour
brokers to circumvent labour laws, Labour Appeal Court Judge President Dunstan
Mlambo said on Wednesday.
"Many firms have... adopted strategies and tactics to
avoid labour laws," he told a labour law conference in Johannesburg.
"These strategies include outsourcing, the use of
fixed-term contracts, temporary and part-time work, and labour broking.
"Research commissioned by the department of labour...
demonstrates that there has been an exponential increase in the use of labour
broking. This has deprived many employees of labour law protection."
Mlambo said the country's laws needed to be evaluated to
assess if they provided employees with "decent work".
"Labour broking fills the pocket of labour brokers at
the expense of the employee, while the client gets the fruit of the employee's
labour, leaving the employee with no protection.
"I'm afraid that the emerging entrepreneurs, especially
those who were previously disadvantaged, need to be reined in. Otherwise, as
history has shown, the poor will be ground into the dust under punishing labour
conditions and declining wages, so that the captains of industry grow
Mlambo said much more needed to be done to rectify the
"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
He said the term "labour broker" was synonymous
with " bakkie brigades" who picked workers off the street to work for
"If a labour broker who engaged workers for a client
failed to pay them, the employees have no recourse against the client, because
the client is not their employer," Mlambo said.
There is no mechanism available for employees to (then)
recover their wages. More importantly, the client cannot be sued directly in
the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) or in the
He said it was no wonder that the topic of labour broking
had become a "hot potato".
Big business also needed to help find a way to adequately
protect workers, Mlambo said.
"It is in the long-term interest of companies to
accommodate young, skilled employees... especially from the townships.
Otherwise we may face a... revolt from the youth that may lead to instability
of the kind manifested by the Arab Spring revolt.
"Let us remember that in times (like this)... business
cannot go on as usual, (or else) we will all suffer."
Mlambo said there needed to be a greater focus on educating
"The Constitution protects the rights of everyone to
basic education. But given the dismal situation at schools, the poor
infrastructure, inadequate learning materials and a dire shortage of skilled
teachers capable of teaching mathematics and science, the future looks bleak.
"They (workers) will remain hewers of wood and drawers
of water. As was the lot of their parents under Bantu education."
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