Gauteng Premier David Makhura

JOHANNESBURG - Following Cosatu’s nationwide strike against corruption and state capture, metalworkers union Numsa claimed to have succeeded in forcing the Gauteng government to ban labour brokers.

But Premier David Makhura’s office has a different take on the matter. At the weekend, Numsa’s acting national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said Makhura had announced during the Cosatu march that the provincial government would ban labour brokers by the end of the year.

“What Mr Makhura failed to mention was that his government has no choice but to ban labour brokers, because Numsa has been instrumental in ensuring that the labour law strengthens the rights of all contract and temporary workers,” said Hlubi.

A former journalist, Hlubi said the Labour Appeals Court confirmed in July that contract workers automatically became full-time employees, with full benefits, after a three-month period has lapsed. When contacted for comment, Makhura’s spokesperson Thabo Masebe said they could not ban labour brokers, a discredited system that has been likened to modern day slavery.

“We are phasing them out. The premier can’t ban labour brokers. What he said at the Cosatu march is that the Gauteng provincial government will phase them out. We will stop using the labour brokers at the end of the financial year,” said Masebe.

He explained that Makhura was not saying he would ban labour brokers because “the premier doesn’t have powers to do that. Such powers are vested with the national minister of labour who can deal with those issues.” The provincial government, said Masebe, had a long standing policy that it would no longer use the labour broking system.

“We do have them (labour brokers), but we are now in a process of phasing them out. We have given ourselves until the end of this financial year to do so,” added Masebe. Department of Labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane said the issue of labour brokers was dealt with at “different levels of government”, adding: “It’s not only the Department of Labour that must decide on the issue of labour brokers, so I have got no comment on that.”

Patrick Craven, acting spokesperson of the SA Federation of Trade Unions, said the governing ANC “agrees in principle” on labour’s call for the scrapping of labour brokers, but pointed out that the problem lay in legislation. He lashed out at unscrupulous businesses who he accused of having found “all sorts of ways in which they can get around the restrictions in legislation”.

“They are employing people on a temporary basis for three months before cancelling their contract. The government must pass legislation which specifically bans labour brokers. They must be scrapped completely,” said Craven.