Last month Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi unveiled his department’s labour migration policy, which it hopes, along with amendments to the Employment Services Act and the Small Business Act, will regulate the number of foreigners owning businesses and working in South Africa.
The policy and the amendments to the Act are out for public comment as part of a process through which the government hopes to set — and enforce — quotas for the number of foreigners eligible to work in each sector of the economy.
Cosatu parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks says the federation has not yet made a submission to the Labour and Employment ministry regarding the Employment Equity Bill, but would be doing so.
The new labour policy in question aims to restrict as many foreigners as possible from seeking employment in South Africa.
Cosatu is also interacting with the department of labour over labour market proposals which it has tabled at National Economic Development and Labour Council, at which the labour migration policy would also be discussed after the public comment process is completed.
Parks said while there was a definite need to deal with a domination of certain sectors by mainly undocumented foreign national — including trucking, construction, fuel, agriculture and security — this could be done by using existing legislation.
“The real question is about the capacity of the government to make use of existing legislation, which governs the labour market, rather than the need for new legislation,” Parks said.
At the centre of the current crisis is the unwillingness of employers to obey existing labour laws and the lack of capacity — and will — by the labour department to enforce the laws that already exist, Parks said.
The department, Parks said, currently has about 1,500 labour inspectors, while there were an estimated two- to three-million workplaces countrywide.
The situation is being made more unworkable by budget cuts, which further restrict the capacity of the department to employ staff to enforce labour laws.
This failure to act to enforce existing law also “does little to encourage compliance on the part of employers,” Parks said.
Democratic Alliance spokesperson on labour Michael Cardo said the Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, through his policy, which Cardo says is flawed, is telling South Africans and the world at large that foreign nationals were responsible for South Africa’s 46.6% unemployment rate.
“This is a textbook case of scapegoating. South Africans cannot find jobs because the ANC has run the economy into the ground, and because our labour laws and regulations are so inflexible, not because of foreign nationals,” Cardo said.
Applying quotas to the number of foreign nationals who could be employed in sectors such as tourism and agriculture was a populist, “short-sighted and xenophobic move” which would have “not a shred of impact on our unemployment crisis.”