Cape Town 100818- Anhalt farm workers working at the farm. Provincial commitee visited the farm and spoke to the farm workers.Picture Cindy waxa.Reporter Andisiwe

The Department of Labour was busy setting up a multibillion-rand provident fund for domestics and farmworkers, it said last week.

In an interview with Business Report, Labour director-general Nkosinathi Nhleko said the process of setting up the provident fund was already in motion and the department hoped it would be up and running by March next year.

The establishment of the fund was mentioned in documents tabled by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan with his Budget speech last month.

The documents say the department will also look at setting up a medical aid scheme for the private security sector.

The 2012/13 Estimates of National Expenditure says these objectives are in line with the spending focus over the medium term, which is to protect vulnerable workers.

The department will receive R2.1 billion to achieve its goals, up from R1.9bn in 2011/12.

Nhleko said the idea of the fund went back to August 2010 when Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant engaged domestic workers and farm labourers in public hearings on wage determinations and enthusiasm was expressed for a provident fund.

He said the next step was for the department to issue a tender for the service provider to establish the fund.

Nhleko said: “Government will play a role in terms of expert advice. We need to look at the affordabilty, administration costs and contributions.”

He said the level of contributions by the employer and employee would depend on how the fund was structured.

The SA Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union has welcomed the plan.

Myrtle Witbooi, the founder and general secretary of the union, said: “The introduction of the provident fund is a breakthrough although it comes very late in the life of many domestics who are at retirement. It should have come a long time ago. But it will be of benefit to the younger workers and it will be something for them to look forward to.”

Witbooi said it would be beneficial for domestic workers if the Compensation Fund was also extended to cover them for injuries at work.

Nhleko said since the Unemployment Insurance Fund was opened to domestic workers, thousands now benefited from it and he did not see why it should not be the same with the provident fund.

“Part of our objective is that we stand to protect the vulnerable workers. Human society must be created on the basis of equality,” he said.

Out of deference to the social partners, Nhleko said he would not talk about the stage of progress of the remaining two labour amendment bills at Nedlac, the negotiating chamber for the government, labour and business.

The two bills are the Employment Equity Amendment Bill and the Public Employment Services Bill.

However, Nhleko said the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill were now with the department’s legal drafters, after having been endorsed by Nedlac. - Wiseman Khuzwayo