Bullying bogus job inspector

2009-01-08 00:00

A man posing as a Labour Department Inspector has been targeting small downtown shops and households in the northern suburbs demanding amounts of R10 000 and more in fines for the employer allegedly having unregistered workers and not paying into the Unemployment Registration Fund (UIF).

According to people who have encountered the impersonator, he is very aggressive. While many have paid up, others who have attempted to question him say that he shouts them down before offering to reduce the amount, saying if they pay him a certain amount their problem will go away. A victim said the man is very well-dressed and self-confident. His modus operandi is to walk into the shop and claim that the employer owes a certain amount of money in back pay and/or fines. “He started off asking for R10 000 when I asked how he came by that figure, he became very aggressive and started shouting at me. Then he changed his tactics and said, ‘what are you going to give me if I do you a favour and make your problem go away’. At this point he told me he would walk away if he got R2 000,” the victim said.

A survey of shops downtown reveals that several people have fallen victim to the bogus inspector and have fearfully given him various sums of money. According to reports, it is already known that he received R7 000 from one employer, R6 000 from another, R4 000 from one and between R3 000 and R2 000 from several others.

Labour Department spokesman Jay Anand confirmed that they are aware of the activities of the man and that currently his department is investigating the matter together with the South African Police Services.

He said in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act it is an offence for any person to pretend to be a labour inspector and perform any functions relating to labour inspection. Any person found guilty of this can be criminally charged.

Anand urged all employees who are not sure whether they are dealing with a genuine labour official to ask for an inspector’s card, which all labour inspectors are issued with.

If they are still not satisfied they can call the nearest Labour Department office to verify the inspector’s identity. The number of the local office is 033 341 5300. He said if the alleged impersonator continues to threaten them, the next step is to call the SAPS and not to continue to entertain the person and to avoid getting into a conflict situation.

He warned, however, that the inspector’s identity must be verified and employers need to co-operate. They can’t just chase away the person because by law labour inspectors have the power to visit any workplace.

According to Anand, no labour inspector is required to collect money be it in cash, cheques or any other form.

“Any money owing to an employee must be paid directly to the employee and if necessary an arrangement can be made for both parties to meet in the [Labour Department] where the exchange can take place.

“If an inspector finds that there has been a transgression in terms of labour legislation he or she can recommend that the employer be prosecuted and then it is up to the local magistrates office to impose a fine if the person is found guilty,” he said.

Anand invited employers who are doubtful about the registration status of their employees to call at their local Labour offices for clarification.

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