Health and safety laws update February 2016

This health and safety laws update of February 2015, includes forestry labour inspections, compensation fraud hearings, a transfer scam, and policy on ‘commercial’ labour unions.

Forestry labour inspection blitz

The Department of Labour conducted a blitz inspection targeting the forestry sector in Ehlanzeni District, Mpumalanga.

Inspectors focussed on compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) as well as Employment Equity Act (EEA).

Nonyaniso Njwambe, Provincial Chief Inspector, said a tough-as-nails team of inspectors scoured the area with an aim of educating and conducting inspections for “us to determine the level of compliance in the sector.’’

She said forestry was largely dominant in Ehlanzeni District as well as few areas in Gert Sibande District, also in Mpumalanga.

She said it was important for stakeholders to work together to reduce accidents, injuries, illnesses and deaths. Equally critical was to address complaints by workers about their conditions of service.

The blitz was a week before the forestry seminar to be hosted by the Department in Sabie, Mpumalanga from March 1 to 3.

Injured compensation fraudster discharged

Hilson Thembinkosi Nxumalo (37), who is wheel-chair bound, was cautioned and discharged after pleading guilty to defrauding the Department of Labour’s Compensation Fund in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in February 2016

Nxumalo was facing a charge of theft. Nxumalo of Rondebult near Germiston in Gauteng was out on a bail of R1000.

He is had defrauded the Department of Labour of R5 400. He was accused of misrepresentation by using someone’s identity document (ID) to secure a job.

He later got injured at work using the borrowed ID and lodged a successful claim with the department’s Compensation Fund.

The ID was later found not to be his as he was claiming under a false name, and payment was stopped.

The defence pleaded for a lighter sentence as the paraplegic (Nxumalo) was said to be a first time offender, unemployed and now that he was wheel-chair bound because of his injuries he had slim chances of securing employment.

DOL fraud sentence six years overdue

The Pretoria Magistrate’s Court in January postponed sentencing in the fraud trial of Maxwell Ramaphosa (39) and Samuel Mfeleng (39) of Soshanguve, accused of defrauding the Department of Labour’s Compensation Fund (CF) of R2,1m.

Sentencing proceedings have been postponed to late February 2016. Ramaphosa and Mfeleng are facing 15 counts of fraud and 26 counts of money laundering. The accused are out on a bail of R3000 each, said the DOL.

The Ramaphosa and Mfeleng’s trial started in 2010 when it was first heard in the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court.

The duo appeared in the matter with co-accused, Jurry Sehunoe, a physiotherapist operating in Rustenburg in North West.

Sehunoe had five years ago, pleaded guilty in the matter, and was subsequently handed a five-year suspended sentence.

Ramaphosa and Mfeleng are alleged to have collaborated with Sehunoe to defraud the workers’ Fund.

The Compensation Fund is a public entity under the administration of Department of Labour responsible to cover workers injured during work or who sustain diseases during the course of their occupation.

Scammers use Labour minister’s name

The Department of Labour warned the public of a scam in which fraudsters are using the name of the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, requesting monies to be transferred electronically for “beneficiaries”.

In an email which is doing the rounds, the fraudsters are using the Minister’s name and request money transfers for beneficiaries.

The Department wishes to categorically state that this is nothing more than a scam to fleece and rip-off unsuspecting public.

All South Africans are urged to desist from interacting with these fraudsters should they receive such a scam email.

The public is encouraged to contact their nearest Labour Centre for more details and verification, if need be or report such activities to the Department’s Fraud Hotline: 0860 022 194.

Minister of Labour warns ‘commercialised’ unions

Labour minister Mildred Oliphant spoke at the 2016 Nedlac Labour School at Roodevallei, Kameeldrift in Pretoria, a gathering of leaders of organised labour. Some extracts from her speech are posted below.

“Labour is going through many challenges occasioned by many factors some of which we have zero control of. We must however invest time and energy in those which we can at the very least, exercise some degree of control…
“What prevents the labour movement from playing the leading role that it has occupied for many years?

“The magnitude of the threat of job losses in the mining sector is so huge that the socio-economic consequences could be devastating for the society. Already many mining towns have become ghost towns as mining companies shut down operations…

“South Africa is littered with instances where organised labour rose up and assumed leadership in times of stress in this country and achieved relatively good results. The 1998 Presidential Jobs Summit; The 2003 Growth and Development Summit Accord;
The 2008 Electricity Summit which resulted in the conclusion of a social compact on how to respond to load shedding and black-outs at the time; The 2009 Framework for South Africa’s response to the Global Economic Crisis, are but some of the living examples of where organised labour played a leading role…

Section 77 Notices are a means to an end
“Is it not possible for organised labour to see solutions beyond the obsession with Section 77 notices [enforcement of the Basic Conditions of Employement Act]? Is it not time that Section 77 is understood as the means to an end and not an end in itself?…

“I am deeply concerned about the low levels of trade union density in the economy. There are lesser and lesser workers that are organised into strong trade unions these days. It is said that globally only about 7 percent of workers are organised into unions.

“The latest figures show that in South Africa, trade unions represent less than 25 percent of the total work force…

“Whilst we have registered excellent progress on the labour policy front, there are equally a number of challenges; The unique feature of our labour Relations institutional arrangements is that their governance is tripartite in its construct.

“For example Labour, Business and Government serve on almost all the advisory boards and governing bodies that are prescribed in the various labour laws, yet we have endless challenges in the manner in which some of them function. Often the blame is placed at the door of the Minister for dysfunctional entities when there are stakeholder representatives that are deployed to run those entities.

“Could it be the function of who is deployed in those boards, or the inability of the federation to enforce accountability? Could it be that people are nominated purely on who is available rather than their capability to add value in the establishment?…

Labour union services by consultants
“In some cases trade unionism is being commercialised through consultants who register bogus unions, solely as a means to represent desperate workers who have no-one to turn to in times of stress.

“Some workers take a chance to represent themselves at CCMA and other dispute resolution platforms, and because they have no idea of how these processes work, end up losing strong cases where, if they had proper representation, they would have won without breaking a sweat.

“Given that our labour law was built on the foundation of strong trade unions, quite frankly this foundation has of late, become very shaky with the proliferation of small, fragmented and very weak unions that are mushrooming all over the place…

“We will be tabling the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act Amendment Bill shortly. We implore you to prioritise the consideration of the Bill in order to ensure it begins to benefit workers without unnecessary delay.

“The Bill seeks to extend coverage to Domestic Workers and it introduces enabling provisions for return to work, habilitation and rehabilitation.

“Whilst talking about the Bills, let me indicate that judging from the kind of enquiries I get when doing walk-abouts, I get the impression that there are still many workers out there who are not fully briefed about the new Amendments to our Labour Laws and the benefits thereof.

I implore all of you to include in your outreach programmes the need to raise awareness about the recent amendments to our labour laws and what they mean for workers.

“Let’s use everything at our disposal to bring workers up to speed with what the new amendments mean to them and how they can derive maximum benefit.”

• Sources; DOL.
• This post does not constitute legal advice.
• South African environment law updates are posted in a separate series on Sheqafrica.com.

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