Workers waiting for short-term job opportunities. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
The Department of Labour (DOL) is assessing its objectives and its performances.

This close look at itself is important for us in the public because it controls the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the Workmen’s Compensation Fund and the CCMA.

The smooth running of these departments would enhance our working lives, and if there were a glitch, it would lead to enormous frustration.

Unfortunately, many of us have experienced long queues, missing papers, non-payment and the like. It is important for us to encourage the DOL to use this careful look at itself so it can improve the service to the public.

In essence the Department has to strengthen occupational safety and protection and it needs to provide equity in the labour market. It must protect vulnerable workers and contribute to employment creation.

One of its aims is to promote sound labour relations and monitor the effects of the legislation. Its overall performance is judged against targets set by itself, but each of us could report back about experience and interface with the Department. It would be interesting and important for all our readers who have had interaction with any one of the departments of the DOL to let us know both positive and negative experiences.

The Department has so far reported that its overall performance has improved and its administration is almost at 75% capacity.

One area that needs to be carefully looked at is the inspection and enforcement services, which I believe is at an all-time low. The Department has only 1600 inspectors country wide and there are millions of businesses.

It is important for the trade union official and shop stewards to look carefully at each one of the businesses they are involved in to ensure issues such as safety, health, protection of vulnerable workers and labour relations are monitored. Any breach of the departmental rules and regulations should be monitored and reported because the Department does not have the capacity to do this itself.

With regard to health and safety inspections, 62% only was found to be in order and many concerns were raised with regard to the safety of building and bridges. There was a problem with many of the government buildings and the Department acknowledged that the inspections of buildings were reactive because of complaints by organised labour.

The Public Employment Services Department of the DOL is not providing many work opportunities and doesn’t seem to be even making a dent in unemployment in South Africa. Furthermore, supported employment enterprises, which is one of the projects of the DOL, did not achieve any of its targets, which seems to be a huge problem area.

The Department has other functions, such as productivity South Africa and Nedlac. Again, both these entities cost millions of rands in upkeep and although they have many and varied functions, we don’t often see results and we certainly don’t feel the value as members of the public.

It can be said that Nedlac has brought the social partners together and is striving for industrial peace in South Africa. I hope we will reap some of those benefits this year. Nedlac did receive a qualified audit and there was about R400000 of irregular expenditure. The Department is looking into this and I hope will not allow this to occur again.

The CCMA already had 25000 cases referred to it in the first month of this year. Surprisingly, only 1700 of these cases were with regard to the national minimum wage. There appears to be a 10% increase in the number of referrals, but we expect this to grow exponentially this year.

Incredibly good news is that the CCMA took 24 days only to deal with conciliation cases, which is below its legislative target, and the entity took 54 days only to deal with arbitration cases. This compared to the Civil Courts is fantastic. If a case is referred to the high court it can take anything from to two to three years to be heard.

Besides the good work the CCMA is doing, it is reaching out to the public to capacitate them to better understand the law and their rights. This year it has conducted 600 outreach services.

The Compensation Fund is still a problem area and I receive calls, emails and letters daily from members of the public who are experiencing non-payment from the fund.

* Michael Bagraim is a labour lawyer.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media

Cape Argus