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Vavi gears up for war with brokers

Dec 22 2010 16:01 Sapa

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Cape Town - Cosatu is not denouncing government's new draft labour legislation but bracing for a fight with labour brokers and employers intent on resisting regulation, trade federation leader Zwelinzima Vavi said on Wednesday.

"We know the employers are going to resist with everything they have," Vavi told Sapa, following earlier comments that 2011 would see "the mother of all battles" against labour brokers.

He said his call for a ban on broking should not be seen as a challenge to the labour department and proposed new labour legislation published for public comment last week that stops short of an outright ban.

"No, not at all. We have not said that the amendments don't adequately protect workers. We have not rejected it. We must still study the document.

"We must make sure that there are no loopholes," Vavi said.

The labour relations amendment bill recalls Section 198 of the original act, which the department said created confusion that was exploited by labour brokers.

The public employment service bill takes the matter further by banning temporary employment agencies from being the employers of the workers they recruit and place with third party companies.

Thembinkosi Mkalipi, the labour department's chief director of labour relations, said the new legislation stated clearly that the company was the primary employer and bore the normal obligations regarding wages and other conditions of employment.

He said it was "not really", as some commentators have suggested, a ban on labour broking but rather a concerted bid to regulate recruitment and placement.

"It creates a new definition of employer. The definition restricts labour brokers to placement. There is really not a difference (between broking and placement) at all. Some brokers only do placement. It is one and the same thing."

Illustrating how the bill intends to regulate the three-way relationship created by placement, he said: "The SABC (for example) can have workers from a placement agency, they cannot have the placement agency be the employer of those workers."

Vavi set out a position similar to that of the department, saying he had no objection to properly regulated temporary employment placement.

"Temporary employment will always be part of the economy. We are not fighting against employers who for their own organisational reasons need temporary labour, those on farms, in the manufacturing industry.

"Even in the unions, if somebody is on maternity leave, we need to find a replacement. So we are not opposed to placement agencies, but we are saying that is where it should end.

Changes may hamper job creation

"What we have a problem with is where somebody is in temporary employment for 20 years and we have not regulated the relationship between the worker and the person who has employed him from the boot of a car," Vavi said.

The new labour bills - four in total - are widely expected to encounter strong opposition and Mkalipi conceded that it would likely be many months before they are tabled in parliament.

Analysts have said a provision creating the presumption that any job is permanent unless the employer can motivate why it should not be, bucked international labour trends and would hamper job creation.

And the Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector is reportedly ready to challenge the law all the way to the Constitutional Court.

Mkalipi said: "We don't think it is true that we are discouraging people from hiring workers. They create jobs because there is a need for labour. It is not as though people create jobs to do labour a favour."

He said the department expected the first negotiations at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) around the bills to take place on January 20.




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