Retail employers rapped for low labour law compliance

SA Labour inspectors will concentrate in 2014 on retail employers found wanting in labour law compliance, according to current statistics.

“A pattern of non-compliance continued unabated, as found in 8 484 inspections conducted in the first quarter of 2013 (April -June), showing that 2 771 employers were non-compliant with labour legislation.

“In the 2013 -2014 financial year a number of issues relating to health and safety were emerging as matters of concern. Places of work were becoming more unsafe,” said Department of Labour Inspection and Enforcement Service (IES) chief director of Statutory and Advocacy Services, Virgil Seafield.

The DoL inspectorate will pay special attention to provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, the Western Cape and North West.

Seafield said to reverse the deteriorating situation, the department will increase its visibility and enforcement in the next financial year, continue to develop innovative ways to do inspections by embarking on blitz inspections, roving teams, and prioritising hotspots.

DOL plans targeted training for retail shop stewards in terms of labour legislation. A public awareness campaign will be intensified in the next financial year.

“The bedrock of the advocacy campaign will be strengthening social partnership through organising business and labour”, said Seafield.

DoL inspections deputy director-general Thobile Lamati warned that the department did not derive any pleasure from taking employers to court, since prosecution “takes time and resources that could be used elsewhere efficiently.

“In instances where we do not listen to one another and do not collaborate, we take a stick approach. It is important to talk and find common ground,” he said. The retail sector was important to the economy of the country and needed support and labour stability.

Labour law requires shared responsiblities

“The way in which our labour laws are structured, requires of us to share responsibilities. The department has a responsibility to educate, while the employers have responsibility for labour law compliance, and organised labour has a duty to educate their constituency on the law.

“A total of 25% of complaints that DoL receives should be solved at factory level. If that were to happen, we will free our inspectors to focus on productive work,” Lamati said.

Wage issues distract health and safety culture

South Africa’s wholesale and retail sector accounted for 70% of wage complaints in the 2012 to 2013 financial year. During 2012 a total of 18% of the growing case load handled by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) came from retail.

The CCMA about three weeks ago also announced that there has been a constant climb in the total number of its case load, with a 25% increase over the last five years.

Seafield said some of the issues of contravention in the sector relate to unauthorised deductions, information about pay, complaints on non-registration with Unemployment Insurance and the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), management of leave, and public holiday remuneration.

He was addressing a Department of Labour Seminar on the theme of Sustainable small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in retail, in Durban in August.

Labour inspection crackdown on retail

“Compliance with labour laws is an employers’ responsibility. The retail sector now forms an important element of our intervention. It is an integral part of priority. The anomalies that come out of this sector pose a huge problem. Instead of running after employers, we should be freeing our inspectors to do more productive work,” Seafield said.

He said labour market fundamentals were sound, but the problem in the labour market was non-compliance and failure to follow appropriate procedures.

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