Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
Forestry SA director Roger Godsmark told Parliament’s labour committee on Tuesday that micro-timber producers would bear the brunt of proposed labour law changes.
There are an estimated 26 000 micro timber producers in SA, mainly on rural, state-owned tribal land in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, employing thousands of workers.
The proposed legislation, if passed into law, would require employers to show that temporary work was “sincere and justifiable”.
“Large growers use temporary and seasonal workers and have the resources to handle it,” he said.
“(But) say, you decide you have to employ someone on Monday – it could take weeks and weeks to get permission. For micro producers, this is bureaucracy gone crazy,” Godsmark said.
Most of these emerging farmers grew wattle and eucalyptus, with an average rotation span of nine years from when the saplings were planted to when the trees were felled, he said.
Wattle – from which timber and bark is produced – had to be harvested in the rainy season when the bark was wet enough to strip so tannin could be extracted.
It was then used to pan leather.
Most small producers had only about two hectares from which to farm, using only family labour and hiring small contractors with tractors and chainsaws seasonally. Most could not afford such equipment themselves.
Since many were also illiterate, the laws were impractical, Godsmark said.
“In practice what you will find is these growers will fall out of the net,” he said, adding that labour inspectors were unlikely to police these enterprises adequately.
“The larger companies, in order to maintain (existing international norms and standards) will abide by laws of all the countries,” he said of multi-nationals like Sappi and Mondi, which also have operations in SA.
“But in terms of international competitiveness, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said, adding, however, that large companies were “here to stay”.