Labour Department performance ‘unacceptable’

Director-general Thobile Lamati faced sharp questions on Labour Department performance in the Parliamentary Committee. Minister Oliphant was not there, as usual.
Director-general Thobile Lamati faced sharp questions on Labour Department performance in the Parliamentary Committee. Minister Oliphant was not there, as usual.

Director-general Thobile Lamati faced sharp questions on Labour Department performance in the Parliamentary Committee. Minister Oliphant was not there, as usual.

An SA Parliamentary Committee said the Labour Department performance self-assessment of 50% was ‘depressing and unacceptable’.

Department of Labour (DOL) director-general Tobile Lamati in January 2017 presented the Annual Report on Labour inspections, industrial relations, legislation impacts, employment equity, training of job seekers, and its epic struggles with IT, for 2015-2016, to the Portfolio Committee on Labour in Cape Town.

Lamati said the DOL performance against its own targets averaged at 50% in 2016, an improvement against the dismal 44% of the foregoing year. Members of Parliament (MPs) on the committee were not impressed with the format of the report, nor with the results.

Most planned labour relations projects were not realised. Most of the planned Impact of Legislation reports were not finalised. DOL assessed its own staff numbers and capacity as being at only 44%, apparently to explain its under-performance.

Labour inspection and enforcement of the Employment Equity Act, however, was very good, assessed at 83%, and even above 100% in some provinces. Minimum wages were also implemented at a 100% level.

Inspectors had issued 142 employement equity recommendations to employers. However several other Department of Labour functions, especially at some provincial offices, were poorly executed.

Health and safety inspection statistics

Occupational Health and Safety Act inspections in 2015-2016 were scored at 63% against the DOL targets for its Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) head office.

Labour inspectors have inspected 172 000 workplaces, and acted against most of the non-compliant employers, resulting in some prosecutions.

Western Cape health and safety inspections totalled 12 454, but short of an even higher target. Another figure presented to the committee cited Western Cape inspections as totalling 6092, and enforcement notices as 5324 [release of the DOL performance assessment in written form later, may clarify this point, which was unclear in the audio recording of the Portfolio Committee presentation. However it seems that Western Cape employers were targeted by Labour inspectors last year].

A Gauteng MP commented that winelands agriculture inspections were not relevant to labour problems in the other provinces.

Free State inspections were 876, and enforcement notices 804.

Mpumalanga inspections were 1358, and enforcement notices 1274.

North-West inspections were 851, and enforcement notices 845.

Northern Cape inspections were below target, partly due to distances.

Incident investigations should be completed in 90 days, but the DOL’s target is 60 days. Free State incident investigations scored 55%; Mpumalanga 48%, north-West 44% on finalisation. Delays were generally due to time lags in the availability of health and safety technical experts, or incident witnesses.

Job market statistics

Some employers were not registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and thus not paying UIF contributions.

Registered job seekers included 600 000 applicants (of which 20 000 were in Gauteng), of which only 10 900 were placed in job opportunities, leaving 49 000 jobless, mostly due to generally high NQF levels of the job opportunities, and low skills levels of job seekers.

DOL Public Employment Projects were achieved, except some in KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape that did not reach the targetet results.

Politicians criticise DOL and Labour Minister

Members of Parliament on the Labour Portfolio Committee were scathing in their criticism of the Labour Department performance.

An MP from Mpumalanga criticised the context of Lamati’s report, which measured performance against its own targets, but lacked labour market context.

An MP from North-West criticised the lack of industrial relations and industrial peace, while mining is shedding jobs, and agriculture is shedding jobs due to drought, both raising the number of job seekers in the general labour market.

“We have raised these issues before, but we find again a cosmetic presentation from the Department of Labour. Labour inspections do not serve the purposes of compliance, threatening few consequences for non-compliant employers,” said a North-West MP.

An Eastern Cape MP said the Department of Labour report was “depressing an unacceptable”. Half the SA population, or about 25-m are poor; 16-m people are on social grants; 9-m are unemployed. “You are failing the implementation of the Employment Services Act”, he said.

“Skills programmes are too few, only 25 programmes; you fell short by 14 000 cases. Some opportunities were registered, yet few people were placed in jobs.

“The Department of Labour team is strong at the top, with too many directors and managers, yet you claim that you lack resources. You also suffer cases of fraud and corruption.”

Another MP queried: “The Minister of Labour (Oliphant) was here (in the labour Portfolio Committee) once, for a few minutes. Where is the political responsibility for the poor Labour Department performance?”

The committee chairperson replied that MPs could raise that question in Parliament, but promised that he would also speak to minister Oliphant.

He noted that the Public Employment Services board had not been established yet, however R43.6-m had been transferred for that purpose.

The DOL’s chronic IT system challenges were raised again. “Other departments have IT systems that work, what is the IT problem at the DOL?” (see earlier reports about Siemens, other suppliers, and several DOL IT turnaround strategies going back several years, on Sheqafrica.com).

Labour Dept ICT and data cost R2-billion

Another MP queried why most of the labour organisations who had applied to the DOL, were refused.

DG Lamati responded that more detailed reports were available; that government’s labour market policy was not fully implemented; that the CCMA would report separately on its work; and that the DOL interacted with mining employers by finding Training Layoff for retrenched workers.

He also noted that the DOL wanted to force employers to report job opportunities on its own system (see an earlier report on Sheqafrica.com), however employers did not agree.

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Lamati also responded that the DOL and the various Setas and colleges were working together to raise skills levels. The UIF requires applicants to register as job seekers, and the Labour Activation Programme assisted them with a stipend during training.

This programme should be scaled up, and the DOL is decentralising it for that purpose, he said.

“Skills is not just a Labour issue, but mainly the responsibility of the Department of Higher Education and Training,” said Lamati.

The Labour portfolio committee chair noted “deep concern” with the Labour Department performance in general, and urged Lamati to apply rigourous management.

MPs to visit Mpumalanga DOL office in March

The committee chairperson said the MPs in the Labour Portfolio Committee would visit the Labour office in Mpumalanga in March 2017 for oversight, to review how inspectors worked at farms, factories, and state departments.

The next report of Labour Department performance before the politicians is in May 2017.

Meanwhile government announced a budget shortfall of R23-b. Accounting company KPMG commented that there were “dire needs in education, health and safety, and other departments.”

South Africa’s maximum marginal tax rate of 41% is already above the 33% global average, and the African average is also 33%.

State inefficiency is impacting negatively on the country’s ability to attract investors and employers, said KPMG.

  • Sources: Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) audio recording, January 2017. KPMG. Sheqafrica.com.

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Sheqafrica.com is Africa's largest independent SHEQ Magazine, hosting over 2 000 articles and news items since 2007. Sheqafrica.com is owned by the Cygma Group, a global provider of risk management and compliance solutions. Sheqafrica.com is registered as a digital publication with the ISSN.
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