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23 Feb 2023

Department of Employment and Labour

S. Africa: Department of Labour concerned about challenges brought by digital space in the protection of worker’s rights

‘Employment and Labour expresses shock over conditions of migrant work in South Africa’ 16 February 2023

The Department of Employment and Labour’s Deputy Director-General: Inspection and Enforcement, Aggy Moiloa, has described the workplace conditions of migrant labourers in South Africa as a sad one and appalling. Moiloa was speaking today (16 February 2023) during the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) Employment Standards Conference which is currently underway in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. “The issue of migratory work is a very sad one and we are on a precipice as a country. If we don’t handle it well it’s going to tilt us to conditions and situations that we wouldn’t want to see,” said Moiloa. The DDG described the conditions of a particular workplace that was inspected in Gauteng the previous year (2022) as one that she had never experienced before in her life as an inspector.

“When the inspectors and I went to a workplace in Gauteng, somewhere in the Braamfontein area with the Hawks, in that place we found that there were several Malawian nationals that were locked up working in some forsaken building that if you didn’t have your intelligence intact, you wouldn’t have known that there was any type of work going on there. “In my life as an inspector, I have never seen such atrocities subjected to human beings. Those people (migrant workers) had never seen the late of day on end. So clearly they wouldn’t know what day of the week it was and they were made to work in conditions that were so appalling that the ablution facility wasn’t working properly and both men and women were using the same ablution area. And when we got into the nitty-gritties of that, some of them had been trafficked into the country. Effectively, they were not even paid for the work that they were doing,” said Moiloa.

…DDG Morotoba expressed his concerns and the struggle that the Department is faced with in the digital sphere of employment in South Africa, which is also causing new challenges to both SA and migrant labours. “We know that we have a new challenge in the digital workers' space because the inspections that are conducted today and the kind of inspections we are going to conduct tomorrow, given the new way in which employers are looking at our labour laws, they studied all our laws and what they are now doing is to slowly erode everything that is already covered in terms of the act and bring a new labour relations regime that several countries are struggling with. “The big economy was never there with us and we know about the 4IR, but the workers in the digital platform are employed by somebody in America while working here. If you know the Uber workers and all of them have no social security such as the UIF and Compensation Fund, and they are knocked out by cars everywhere on the road. And when they die people start questioning our labour laws and the majority happen to be foreign nationals who are subjected to a lot of exploitation,” said Morotoba.