Minister: Farmers want to comply

2012-05-08 20:07

Cape Town - Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has lauded farmers who have made an effort to improve the working conditions of their workers.

Speaking in the National Assembly during debate on her budget vote, she said that during the past year, the department had carried out inspections at 139 150 workplaces throughout the country.

"Furthermore, 35 327 notices were issued to ensure compliance with labour laws and 1 023 prohibition notices were served on companies not complying with labour laws."

She had herself been leading some of these inspection blitzes in the agricultural sectors of eight provinces - chosen because farm workers were defined as some of the most vulnerable workers in the country.

During these inspections, it became clear that in reality most of the farmers wanted to comply with the legislation.

"In fact... we were confronted with a heart-warming situation whereby a farmer demanded that we inspect his area of business.

"He had not been scheduled for inspection, but he insisted and we complied.

"After inspection, he promised to rectify the four things the inspectors were unhappy about. A follow-up has shown that three of the four issues have been addressed adequately," Oliphant said.

That particular farmer now awaited an electrician to issue a certificate of compliance.

"It has also been our experience that some farmers go beyond the minimum wage and in general treat their workers with dignity.

"However, I have also been horrified at the treatment of workers in other areas, especially in regard to the living areas that they occupy."

Some of these places did not deserve to be called living areas.

In general, inspectors reported a relatively high compliance rate, often over 70%.

However, the reach of the inspectorate remained limited given that they were few in number in relation to the large number of establishments in the formal sector - both public and private.

The department currently employed 1 018 inspectors, she said.

Discussion had been initiated during the past year in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on the possible ratification of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions 81 and 129.

These dealt with inspections in industry and commerce and agriculture.

"Once concluded, we will consider ratification of these conventions to bring our inspection activities within the framework of international good practice."

Efforts were also continuing to train and upgrade the inspectorate so that they were able to enforce compliance with legislation, to ensure that decent work principles were adhered to and addressed vulnerability in the labour market.

The department had been fortunate to have had the assistance of the ILO in providing training and development for the inspectorate and looked forward to this continued collaboration, Oliphant said.

- SAPA

Read more on:    mildred oliphant  |  agriculture  |  labour
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