If the government has its way, private companies will no longer be able to hire employees without first considering people listed on a government database of unemployed South Africans.
Failure to do so could result in heavy fines for companies.
This is according to the Employment Services Bill gazetted in December last year.
According to the proposed bill, the government intends to establish a public employment service, whose task will be to create a database of all unemployed people in the country. The employment service will then link job seekers to companies that have vacancies.
The bill, one of four tabled last year, also stipulates that employers will have to register all their vacancies with the service in 14 days.
The government will then provide the companies with the names of possible candidates to fill those posts.
According to the proposed bill, if companies fail to appoint candidates from the database who meet the requirements, they will need to provide written reasons for their actions.
The bill also proposes conditional employment of foreigners. If a company employs a foreigner, it will have to prove to the employment service that it was unable to find a suitable local candidate, including those provided by the government.
The government has also vowed to deal with recruitment agencies that charge job seekers fees. It has proposed that all agencies be registered or face punitive measures.
The bill proposes that the agencies must charge employers the fees instead.
In addition, the bill provides for temporary workers to be paid at the same rate as permanent workers.
Labour law expert Johan Botes, of the law firm Cliffe Decker Hofmeyer, slammed the proposed bill.
He said it was aimed at allowing the government to run the affairs of the private sector.
“The government must allow the business sector to run its affairs while they continue to govern the country,” he said.
Botes said that the government was vague on how it intended to deal with companies that failed to comply with the bill’s provisions. The government’s proposals on fixed-term contracts were likely to increase unemployment instead of creating more jobs.
More companies were likely to terminate their contract workers and this could also affect investment in South Africa.
“Some of the companies are likely to look elsewhere and invest their business in other countries,” said Botes. “The government must create more flexible working arrangements for the private sector.”
Cosatu welcomed the proposed bills, saying it was now waiting for the government to provide further details.
A spokesman for the union federation, Patrick Craven, said it had always preferred that recruitment for jobs should be done by the state, represented by the Labour Department, instead of being driven by labour brokers.
He said Cosatu was still studying the bill and might not agree with some of its provisions.
Last week, Cosatu said it would table a comprehensive response when it met Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.
It vowed to push for more changes to the country’s labour laws than presently on the table.
Andrew Layman, the chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the chamber would release a statement on its opinion of the bills by the end of next week.
“We are in the process of consulting with our members and we are preparing a statement on the Employment Services Bill as well as our views on the amendments of the other three bills,” he said.
Harold Ndendle, a spokesman for the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the organisation would support any bill that contributed to growth in the country, especially of black people.
“If the bill will contribute to us moving forward as a country, we will support it.” - Baldwin Ndaba and Kyle Venktess