Slave wages for disabled workers

2013-07-17 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Legislature Speaker Neliswa Peggy Nkonyeni went on a fact-finding mission yesterday after allegations surfaced that physically and mentally disabled people were exploited in Merebank and Wentworth.

The people spend their time at Durban and Coastal mental health centres and are “paid” as little as R1,50 per fortnight for the work they do there.

These people have various disabilities, ranging from learning disabilities to epilepsy and physical disabilities.

They assemble earplugs, sort hangers, pack stationery and sort spices, among other tasks.

“I’ve seen a lot of envelopes with names and amounts paid to individuals. As the matter stands the parents feel that their children are exploited. We’ll take this up with the Department of Social Welfare,” said Nkonyeni.

Centre executive director Gita Harie said there was nothing untoward with what they were doing.

“There is no employer-employee relationship here. What we do, we equip the disabled with life and work skills. Each of those who are under us must be a recipient of a government grant to be part of the programme as they don’t work for a stipend or salary,” said Harie.

She said they source contracts from companies for the nine centres they run throughout Durban to keep their members busy and help them gain skills in the process.

“From whatever we quote a company, 47% goes to the service users [the disabled] and 53% and the government subsidy goes towards operational costs [including maintaining the buildings] and to sustain the project financially. Every participating member in the work done gets a unit cost share,” explained Harie.

She invited all the parents who feel aggrieved to contact a social worker designated to monitor the treatment of the disabled in various centres.

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