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COSATU Today  |  Memorandum

COSATU Memorandum on Labour Broking

7 October 2009

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is today, 7 October 2009, joining workers in more than 30 countries all over the world to mark the World Day for Decent Work, organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Here in South Africa the focus will be on Labour Broking, which COSATU has vowed to see outlawed for the reasons outlined below.

Labour brokers are the main drivers of the casualisation of labour. Their practices are the absolute opposite of decent work. They have driven down workers’ wages and conditions of employment. They do not create any jobs but sponge off the labour of others and replace secure jobs with temporary and casual forms of employment.

COSATU totally agrees with Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana’s description of labour broking as "a form of human trafficking, and an extreme form of free market capitalism which reduces workers to commodities that can be traded for profit as if they were meat or vegetables. The agenda of labour brokers is pro-employer and anti-trade unionism. Labour brokers are anti-trade union because they constantly move workers around from one place to another often with no access to union officials, with no possibility of stop order deduction for union subscriptions".

These companies ‘sell’ the labour of workers to the highest bidder and then pay them the lowest possible wage, often in cash with no deductions for tax or UIF, let alone any benefits. COSATU agrees with the Minister that “labour brokers are not doing our workers a service. People who are employed by labour brokers have no pensions, no benefits – in the end they are just dumped”.

Legislation clearly states that the ‘employer’ is whoever actually pays the workers’ wages, i.e. the broker, who is thus obliged to comply with all an employer’s statutory obligations to the workers. Often in practice, however, the broker and the company to which they supply the workers, each try to dodge their responsibility to contribute to UIF, provident funds, medical aids, health and safety compliance, skills development, etc by claiming that it is the other’s responsibility.

Labour broker are also basically anti-trade union. Because ‘their’ workers are constantly being moved around from one workplace to another for short periods, often with no access to union officials or the possibility of stop-order deductions for union subs, they find it very hard to join a union or to remain as members. Labour brokers are also frequently ‘scab brokers’ and strike-breakers.

COSATU vehemently rejects the call by the unprincipled alliance of COPE, the DA and Solidarity that labour broking can be dealt with by simply better regulation. It is an industry that exists precisely so that client companies can dodge the existing labour laws and regulations, and hand over responsibility for the fate of their workers to an outside company – the labour broker. If the industry wanted to regulate itself, as it requests, why has it not done so already? Because their whole reason for existence is to promote an unregulated labour market.

COSATU welcomes the public hearings taking place on the future of labour broking, in which it is participating to the full. We look forward to Parliament and Government finally bring an end to labour broking and all other forms of casualisation. All workers must have one clearly identifiable employer who is legally responsible for ensuring that they all receive all the benefits and protection they are entitled to under our constitution and labour laws, including the right to join and remain a member of a trade union.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
Braamfontein, 2017

P.O. Box 1019
Johannesburg, 2000

Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24
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E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za