This month we reflect on the power of the South African spirit, and what it can overcome. We commemorate and pay homage to the working class of our nation during the month of May. The month even starts off with a public holiday (Workers Day), where we are reminded of the power of the working class, and how important fair labour practices and employment standards are. No human being deserves to be exploited for financial gain!
We can celebrate that South Africa now has a culture of human and worker rights firmly entrenched in our Law, but we do also need to remember that we have continued problems with unemployment and economic inequality, lingering racial and ethnic conflicts, forced labour and various forms of discrimination.
Human trafficking has no discrimination when it comes to its victims – it’s not just about women and children. A large number of victims are found within the fishing and agriculture sectors, where men are forced to work long hours, for a pittance, or to repay a loan, without any hope of ever becoming free from that debt or bond. Migrant boys and young men are particularly vulnerable to exploitative working conditions in a number of sectors, threatened with deportation if they do not comply.
While we honor those, who have moved South Africa forward and continue to move South Africa forward, we must not forget the many challenges around the working class that we have yet to overcome.
WHAT MAKES SOUTH AFRICANS VULNERABLE:
There are several factors which make South African producers and workers vulnerable to modern slavery, these include:
- High levels of unemployment and low education and skills levels: Workers that have limited employment options and a limited understanding of their rights are vulnerable to exploitation
- Sector seasonality: Increased labour demand during peak seasons create reliance of producers to use temporary workers that form part of vulnerable groups such as migrant workers and workers recruited by third party labour providers, for example temporary employment services (TES) supervisors and tribal chiefs 2
- Low level of worker unionisation: Fewer than 6% of farm workers nationally belong to trade unions, and unions active in the agricultural sector have largely been unable to organize seasonal workers who constitute the growing majority of workers. Workers in agriculture therefore do not have strong representation of to bargain collectively or address labour related issues 3
- Lack of appropriately trained labour brokers: A study found that the majority of labour brokers lack adequate training and support on labour law requirements so as to ensure responsible for labour practice. Further to this, the lack of labour law broker association reduces their bargaining power with employers to ensure payment of minimum wage 4
- Lack of worker empowerment: Workers often do not have sufficient awareness and knowledge of South African labour legislation and support services to empower them to avoid and expose exploitation
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
- Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), Act 75 of 1997 and The Sectoral Determination 13 – Farm worker sector: These Acts prohibit forced labour and make various provisions to ensure responsible labour management practices which reduce business risks and vulnerabilities to modern slavery 5 6
- Employment Service Acts, Act 4 of 2014
These Acts provides for the registration of private employment agencies, which includes recruitment agencies and temporary employment services, more commonly known as labour brokers 7
- Extension of Security Tenure Act, Act 62 of 1997
This Act requires that employers respect the occupational rights of farm dwellers, and comply with the provisions of the legislation where these regulate the eviction of people living on farm 8
- Correctional Service Act, Act of 111 of 1998
This Act prohibits prison labour as a form of punishment or disciplinary measure. 9
- Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act (PACOTIP), Act 7 OF 2013
This Act stipulates the National Policy Framework to ensure a uniform, coordinated and cooperative approach by all organs of state and institutions in dealing with matters of human trafficking. 10
- Labour Relations Act (LRA), Act 66 of 1995:
The purpose of this act is to advance economic development, social justice, labour peace and the democratisation of the workplace. It includes the right that “Every person shall have the right to fair labour practices”. 11
“IT IS IMPORTANT THAT CLEAR STANDARDS ARE UPHELD AROUND ISSUES SUCH AS: WORKING HOURS, HEALTH AND SAFETY, NO CHILD OR FORCED LABOR, FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND ENSURING THAT DISCRIMINATION DOES NOT TAKE PLACE. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WHERE EVIDENCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES DOES OCCUR WE ENSURE IT IS ADDRESSED AND THOSE AFFECTED RECEIVE REDNESS” 12
– Tesco, Statement on Human Rights on company website
Let us never stop working together to create a brighter future for our nation!
1 ILO. Walk For Free Foundation and IOM. 2017 (Online) Available at:
2 Muwaki. K. 2017. Forced Labour and the South African fruit and wine industries. A scoping research report developed for Stronger Together
3 Human Rights Work. 2011. (Online) Available at: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/safarm0811webwcover.pdf
4 Centre for Rural Legal Studies and Women on Farms Project. 2008. Going for Broke: Case Study of Labour Brokerage on fruit farms in Grabouw (Online) Available at:
5 The Department of Labour.1997. Basic conditions of employment Act No 75 of 1997 Sectoral determinations 13 farm worker sector. South Africa (Online) Available at:
6 The Department of Labour. Basic conditions of employment act. 1997 (Online) Available at: http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/downloads/legislation/acts/basic-conditions-of-employment/Amended%20Act%20-%20Basic%20Con ditions%20of%20Employment.pdf
7 The Department of Labour. 2016. The Employment Services Act, 2016. (Online) Available at: http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/downloads/legislation/acts/public-employment-services/employservact2014.pdf
8 The Department of Justice.1997. The Extension of Security Tenure Act. 1997 (Online) Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/lcc/docs/1997-062.pdf
9 The Department of labour. 1998. The Correctional Services Act, 1998 (Online) Available at: http://www.dcs.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/DCS-Act-111-of-2008.pdf
10 The Department of Justice. Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2013. (Online) Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/2013-007.pdf
11 The Department of Labour, 1995. Labour Relations Act and Amendments (Online) Available at: http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/legislation/acts/labour-relations/labour-relations-act
12 Tesco, 2017. Our approach to Human Rights in the Supply Chain (Online) Available at: