Business: 500 000 Workers Threatened By Call for Ban on Temp Services
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The call for an outright ban on the temporary employment services industry (TES) threatens the livelihood of some 500 000 workers and their families, a loss of a R26bn contribution per annum to the GDP, the immediate cessation of around 10 000 learnerships currently facilitated by TES, dire repercussions on the competitiveness of local companies and an outflow of foreign direct investment. This at a time when South Africa is facing one of the worst economic crises in years and when job creation is critical on the country’s economic and social agendas.
While some Government members and Unions are calling for the ban on labour brokers, largely precipitated by the actions of rogue TES providers, John Botha, the Chief Operations Officer of the Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector (CAPES), believes that the current labour legislation adequately addresses the use of TES/labour brokers and that it is the lack of effective law enforcement on the part of the Department of Labour that is at the core of the issue - resolving this will be in the best interests of the social and economic welfare of the country, as opposed to an outright ban.
“CAPES, on behalf of our stakeholders tabled the issues around TES regulation at NEDLAC as early as 2005 and despite the business constituency making strong recommendations and even tabling draft regulations on a Private Employment Agency Board, there has been very little progress. Now suddenly there is an unsubstantiated call for an outright ban on temporary employment from the Minister of Labour which poses a huge concern for us. This is a critical issue that requires serious, well-considered resolution as it firstly negatively impacts millions of lives dependent on the salaries of the affected temporary workers and secondly, temporary labour is critical to the continued competitive existence of all industries that experience cyclical peaks and troughs. It would be entirely reckless and irresponsible to use this issue for political leverage,” says Botha.
The call for an outright ban is indicative of a lack of understanding of how crucial the TES industry is in regard to driving economic growth, employment creation, skills development and poverty reduction. Rather than banning TES, the focus should be on enforcing the existing, excellent legislation South Africa has in place in respect of TES.
“Even in the absence of a statutory right to regulate and given the Department of Labour’s failure to regulate TES, as an industry we have not been idly standing by. The industry has voluntarily opted for self-regulation to ensure fair and equitable practices by TES who employ the majority of temporary assignees in South Africa via CAPES and its member associations, APSO (Association of Personnel Service Organisations), CEA (Constructional Engineering Association), ANASA (Association of Nursing Agencies of South Africa) and ITA (Information Technology Association). The industry has been evolving and upgrading with an industry wide certification institute to be launched shortly which will build on the previous professional education programmes to drive professionalism and continuous professional development within the industry. We have covered considerable ground in migrating and consolidating existing funds in a central industry pension fund for those temporary assignees who do not fall under established bargaining councils. We continue to establish various collective arrangements with unions to demonstrate that TES recognises and underwrites the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The reality is that we need to forge a new and innovative arrangement in respect of unionisation, given that the traditional model of the unions is not easily applied to the modern workplace,” explains Botha.
“There is an urgent need to find ways of reinforcing more and better jobs and modernising labour markets to increase adaptability and employment. “Locally, our Government and unions are placing the focus on ‘job security’ where the rest of the world has moved to ‘employment security’ - to have security of employment by virtue of having the right skills, at the right time. Even the International Confederation of Trade Unions has entered into a collective agreement with the TES industry in the European Union in recognition of the new modern world of work and how to regulate it according to a new dispensation so that there is a real balance between economic growth and employment justice.
The Department of Labour is struggling to enforce the numerous provisions on TES in the Labour Relations Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Skills Development Act, the BCEA and related Acts. In light of this, CAPES is engaging with a view to establishing a statutory Private Employment Agency Board that is representative of the social partners and which would licence, investigate and de-register non-compliant TES.
Statements by union leaders that the TES industry is liable for the lack of decent work in South Africa as prescribed by the International Labour Organisation are unfounded. The ILO views decent work as having three primary pillars, most of which is already in place in SA and what is not is being addressed.
· Employment standards which are the minimum bedrock of legislation to guarantee minimum protections
· Employment security, dispute resolution procedures and union rights – the need to create and protect employment
· Social security and retirement reform – Government plans to have a National Social Security Fund in 2010 as well as an extended social net of benefits
CAPES endorses the notion of decent work as conceptualised by the ILO as it promotes:
· A fair income and access to benefits
· Employment security
· Social security
· Freedom of association
· Healthy and safe work environment
“The TES industry only provides around 4% of the economically active workforce in SA. There are other industries that should perhaps be under the spotlight. TES pays at the very least the minimum agreed Bargaining Council rates and employment terms and complies with sectoral determinations or the BCEA. These terms have been agreed by labour unions. ‘Decent work’ is a fluid concept and must take into consideration the economic and social environment of the country.”
The Temporary Employment Services (TES) industry accounts for around 4% of the economically active population in South Africa and is a small but important contributor to various national strategic initiatives of both the government and the private sector. In Rand terms, the industry is a R26 billion plus industry providing jobs for around 500 000 assignees on any day. Of these assignees approximately 15% - 32% obtain permanent employment (depending on job-type) and TES therefore acts as a channel for the unemployed, under-employed and outsiders (people who find it difficult to obtain employment such as youth and the aged) into the formal labour market.
The new world of work with its changing technology, short product life cycles and skills shortages, as well as the impact of globalization on competitiveness, means that life-long employment is no longer a reality. Rather, the TES industry focuses on employment security rather than job security. In addition, it is attempting to balance employment flexibility with benefits security.
Temporary assignees, given the nature of the TES industry, are continually exposed to new technologies, different industries and various positions and this contributes towards their marketability and employment security. The TES industry also engages in learnerships, apprenticeships and is one of the largest contributors to the skills development levy in South Africa via the Services SETA.
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