CAPE TOWN - Another sweatshop where workers are alleged to have been locked in the factory for upwards of 21 days at a time, has been busted in Gauteng.
The Department of Employment and Labour said this is the second Chinese sweat shop bust in the province– the owners apprehended in a 2019 bust are at the end of trial in which they are accused of employing undocumented foreign nationals, using child labour, breaking of a multitude of labour laws as well as human trafficking.
In the latest joint multi-departmental bust, an employer and his seven workers were arrested in Randburg, Joburg, on Friday, following a tip-off.
“Eric Shao, who is the owner of Sock Works, which was found by the Inspection and Enforcement Services to be in breach of many laws, was arrested together with his fellow workers. They are due to appear at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday and will be charged with violating South Africa’s Immigration Act and various labour laws,” the department said.
The labour laws included violation of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida), the Unemployment Insurance Act, national minimum wage, among others.
In addition, workers are alleged to be working excessive hours, have no contracts, are paid below the minimum wage, are sleeping in the factory building, and males and females shared ablution facilities.
The department’s inspectors, accompanied by Hawks and Home Affairs officials staged an inspection at the company’s premises at 8 Meadow Brooklane Business Estate in Randburg.
During the two-and-a-half-hour operation, the owner was reported to have not been co-operative.
“He is alleged to have been carrying a loudspeaker and communicating with his lawyers via cellphone. Furthermore, he was obstructing the work of inspectors by refusing to answer questions fully, a conduct that is forbidden and punishable by law,” the department said.
Chris Msibi, an inspector with department’s IES’ Statutory Service Unit added: “The outcome of the blitz inspection proves that when enforcement agencies work together, we are able to combat illegal activity in the country, protect workers, and strengthen compliance with employment laws in SA.”
Gauteng chief inspector, advocate Michael Msiza, said the employer was referred to the magistrate’s court for additional criminal charges for failing to comply with the employment laws. Should the employer also fail to comply with the enforcement notices issued, he would be referred to the magistrate’cs Court for criminal action and the Commission for Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration for civil action.
“We are putting all violators of employment laws on notice. We are coming for you.
"We will not tolerate pre-Covid-19 challenges where employers continually violated labour laws with impunity and also continue with the employment of undocumented persons. This is just a start as we will be intensifying our joint inspections into many troublesome sectors over the next few weeks,” Msiza said.