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Labour minister says employment matters are his to handle after controversial EFF 'checks'

19 January 2022 - 17:29
Romon De Comarmond, manager of Kream restaurant, initially declined to meet EFF leader Julius Malema.
Romon De Comarmond, manager of Kream restaurant, initially declined to meet EFF leader Julius Malema.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/ Sunday Times

The employment and labour department has weighed in on the EFF's controversial visits to Johannesburg restaurants to demand that management provide them with information on how many foreign nationals they employ.

EFF leader Julius Malema made the visits on Wednesday, asking for information on foreign employees vs the number of South Africans employed at the businesses.

While the department did not mention Malema’s name, it said this was a matter within its jurisdiction.

“The principle of fair labour practice is a fundamental right enshrined and guaranteed in the constitution. The Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act give effect to the principle of fair labour practice. The legislation prescribes recourse for employees who feel their rights have been trampled upon,” the department said.

“The legislation is intended to protect employees irrespective of their nationality as long as the employment relationship can be identified. The same rights accorded to an SA employee apply to foreign nationals. That means they are entitled to conditions of employment and prescribed minimum wage. Any employer who departs from this principle because an employee is a foreign national violates our laws.”

SA has an all-time high youth unemployment rate of 66.5%. The EFF said the visits were meant to check that “our fellow Africans are not exploited and locals are employed at a satisfactory level”.

The department asked organisations or political parties finding non-compliance with the law to raise the matter with the department or bargaining council if it fell under the council's jurisdiction.

After refusing to meet Malema earlier, management of Kream restaurant eventually agreed to discuss their staff complement.

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi warned Malema not to cross the line.

“One cannot seek to see the enforcement of the law by breaking the law. Violence in seeking to identify areas of non-compliance is counterproductive to the principle of labour market stability and labour peace, which are important to attract foreign investment needed to fight unemployment, inequality and poverty,” Nxesi said..

He urged those wanting to identify non-compliance to act cautiously and avoid violence or intimidation.

“The government is dealing with regulations regarding the employment of foreign workers in SA. It is imperative to wait for the process to be completed rather than parties acting outside the law, which will be tantamount to breaking the law.”

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