Judge Dunstan Mlambo of the Bloemfontien Court of Appeal and Chairman of the Legal Aid Board launches the new the Soshanguve Justice Centre. Picture : Etienne Creux

Johannesburg - Many companies in South Africa use labour brokers to circumvent labour laws, Labour Appeal Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said on Wednesday.

“Many firms have... adopted strategies and tactics to avoid labour laws,” he told a labour law conference in Johannesburg.

“These strategies include outsourcing, the use of fixed-term contracts, temporary and part time work, and labour broking.

“Research commissioned by the department of labour... demonstrates that there has been an exponential increase in the use of labour broking. This has deprived many employees of labour law protection.”

Mlambo said the country's labour laws needed to be evaluated to assess how they provided employees with “decent work”.

“Labour broking fills the pocket of labour brokers at the expense of the employee, while the client gets the fruit of the employee's labour, leaving the employee with no protection,” he said.

“I'm afraid that the emerging entrepreneurs, especially those who were previously disadvantaged, need to be reined in. Otherwise, as history has shown, the poor will be ground into the dust under punishing labour conditions and declining wages so that the captains of industry grow fatter.”

Mlambo said much more needed to be done to rectify the situation.

“Allowing labour brokers to continue to place workers in terrible and uncertain working conditions on the contention that 'half-a-loaf is better than none' will only serve to alienate the working class and harden the attitudes of unions with labour broking,” he said.

“Yes, we need employment. But we also need decent work.”

He said big business needed to help find a way to adequately protect workers.

“It is in the long-term interest of companies to accommodate young, skilled employees... especially from the townships. Otherwise we may face a... revolt from the youth that may lead to instability of the kind manifested by the Arab spring revolt,” Mlambo said.

“Let us remember that in times (like this)... business cannot go on as usual, (or else) we will all suffer.” - Sapa