TES: Is it a bane or boon?

2013-09-19 00:00

HAS the noise by the ANC, Cosatu and others around the issue of “labour brokers” — now referred to as Temporary Employment Services (TES) — already resulted in job losses?

Have the emotions and uncertainty created by this debate over the past three years ended up hurting the very people the discussion ostensibly aimed to help — employees?

This is the question Bridget Jones of Pronel Personnel Consultants is asking. Her company recently celebrated its 16th anniversary of doing business in Pietermaritzburg, and she says that since the beginning of 2009 they have lost nearly 80% of their TES business.

Ironically perhaps, “nearly 70% of our temporary assignees prior to 2009 were actually contracted to parastatals”, she said.

Jones believes that the uncertainty that has been created around the issue of TES has led to companies voluntarily reducing their dependence on temporary labour. She also believes it has not necessarily led to more permanent positions either.

Referring to the temporary workers she had on her books prior to 2009, Jones said that “of those assignees that lost their positions during this time, only 41% were employed permanently by the companies for which they were temping”.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) expressed a similar view in a June statement addressing concerns that “the ANC members of the labour parliamentary portfolio committee are swinging strongly in favour of removing provisions for strike ballots, picketing rules and effectively banning Temporary Employment Service providers”.

“If these reports are accurate, we are deeply perturbed as business, because not only does this create further destabilisation in the fragile economy but also makes a mockery of the Nedlac process,” Busa said. Negotiations between government, labour, business and the community constituencies have been ongoing at Nedlac for over three years.

“Business went to great lengths to get a regulatory impact assessment study on amendments contained in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, which indicated that hundreds of thousands of job losses would occur if such amendments were introduced,” Busa said.

“In government’s own regulatory impact assessment study of the 2010 proposed amendment bill, the study indicated significant job losses if labour brokers were to be banned.”

Wayne Stainforth, MD of Measured Ability Group Holdings of which Western Star and Greys Recruitment are a part, said: “The disappointing aspect relating to the proposed legislation is that it will curb investment and jobs as opposed to creating more. The South African labour market is already deemed over-regulated by prospective investors.

“Ours is an industry of necessity. However, it requires execution with the highest ethic. A TES and a client who share dangerous values are a lethal combination. The opposite to that, however, is the balancing of the market and a ‘fair wage for a fair day’s work’.”

Kirsten Hughes of Kelly Recruitment said that there was some hesitancy among clients in respect of temporary staff.

“What we are finding are a lot of companies and clients getting conflicting information from media and various other industries”, she said adding, however, that “we have been clear with our clients, that until there is more clarity and confirmation on the legislation, it is business as usual”.

Kelly holds workshops to advise clients, and has expressed the importance of clarity on end dates of employment contracts to protect both employers and employees.

Hughes says that they welcome legislation. “Bring it on,” she said. “We are compliant and welcome it.”

Jones said in the meantime, to counteract the effects of the confusion around TES, Pronel Personnel Consultants had revisited its business model.

“We have grown our business by recruiting throughout South Africa and by placing skilled staff across our borders. We have also focused on developing our database of professionals and senior management candidates, which has proved to be a very successful move.”

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