Unfortunately, it is incumbent upon me to let you know some employers do lie. South Africans are invariably very trusting. My experience has been workers across the board in most industries and no matter where they are in the hierarchy of their employment structures, are trusting their employers will treat them fairly and well.
Invariably, in my day-to-day dealings with individual employees, I find when they report to me how the employer treated them unfairly, they are shocked.
This is not to say all or even the majority of employers are dishonest, but it is incumbent upon each and every single individual at the workplace to check up on their circumstances and to be vigilant regularly.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act makes it compulsory to receive a contract of employment (or a letter of appointment) and also to receive a regular pay slip on each pay day. The contract will outline the terms and conditions of employment, including the payments to be made and the deductions to be deducted from the salary on a regular basis.
South Africans are regularly shocked when they see the media reporting on well-known entities not adhering to the law. There have been reports of dozens of state-owned enterprises and governmental institutions that have been deducting the Unemployment Insurance Fund monies regularly but not paying it over to the Department of Employment and Labour.
Likewise, there are literally thousands of businesses that are not registered with the Compensation Fund. God forbid an employee is injured on duty, as there will be no cover whatsoever if the entity is not registered with the Compensation Fund.
Regularly, I discover companies have been deducting pension monies from each staff member and supposedly adding a regular equal amount to this pension fund. When you look at the employee's pay slip, everything looks in order. The amounts deducted are recorded, and the employer's contribution is boldly reflected.
When engaging with the pension fund, one often finds the company had neglected to pay over monies for years. It becomes almost impossible to catch up on the years of neglect.
The employees find their hard-earned pension is almost non-existent. We’ve had cases where employees are retrenched (dismissed for operational requirements), and when claiming the unemployment insurance monies, they are told the company did not even register them in the first place.
Others who had been registered are informed the company had stopped paying their contributions years beforehand. The governing party, the ANC, has now confessed that it had been negligent in that it hadn’t paid over the UIF monies for its staff.
Some members of the staff went to the police to lodge a criminal case against the ANC. It appears the police were reluctant to act against the governing party. When this issue came to light, I went down to the Cape Town Police Station to lay a charge of theft and fraud. This was three years ago.
I constantly ask the police for updates, but none has been forthcoming. It is almost like a horror movie when trying to get the authorities to act against powerful state institutions and the governing party.
Over and above this aforementioned fraudulent behaviour, it must be said certain employers and institutions have professed to be pro-worker and pro-poor. These institutions seem to be at the forefront of this fraudulent behaviour.
Our government has always proclaimed loudly how the workers of South Africa should be treated fairly, but for their own employees have done the opposite. This situation has to change, and it becomes important to ensure all employers adhere to the labour laws equally.
It has been widely reported that thousands of employers are not paying their staff the minimum wage. I strongly believe the entire minimum wage system is wrong, but once we have a law, it is vital for us to at least adhere to it.
This is not the case when it comes to the very institutions that try and enforce that law on others.
* Michael Bagraim.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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