However, what also concern us, is the general disregard for the law on whole range of other matter as well. To be blunt, the labour brokers represent our reversion to those dark days, when employers could just fire workers as easily as they hire them. Again because the main provider of work is not the employer, if he is slightly dissatisfied with something, not less often because the workers want to join or organize union, the main boss may simply notify the labour broker that he no longer desire any particular worker at his workplace. And since he is not an employer by definition, he does not even have to appear or answer any claim at CCMA or any forum established by labour relations act to facilitate resolution of industrial disputes. This situation obvilously establish an industrial regime that is effectively in contrast to that envisage by the labour relations act and other laws that were promulgated as agains of the historic struggles of the labour movement in this country.
Labour brokers generally undermine a struggle for a decent wage, not only in a sense that the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employees is configured in such a way that the workers are effectively unable to fight for a better wage but also because the very subsistence of the labour broker in that relationship means that he still has to be paid, which payments are always in the form of deduction on workers, weighing heavily like a yoke on their meagree wages. Because they usually avoid organisation of labour and always crush harshly any attempt of the workers in that respect, it is always very difficult for the workers to access any form of advice or assistance such as that enjoyed by organized workers that union provide, on the lawfulness of the deductions that are being made against the salaries of the workers affected
Again without unions, it is generally impossible for these workers to bargain with the main employer about such other matters as skills and training, basic benefits such as medical aids cover and all other benefits that other workers easily attain on the basis of organized resistance to the employers. These are partly the reasons that in spite of all the progressive legislative promulgations in these areas, the conditions of the working people are generally worsening, even against the background of high profiteering of the capitalists, especially in years of boom which preceded this current economic crises.
Until now, the proponents of the labour brokering having been advancing the most ridiculous reasoning, most of which reasoning does not deserve any serious attention. However, they’re just few aspects that need to be exposed less they appear sensical to unsuspecting members of parliament.
Critical amongst justification that is usually provided is that the main company does not want to deal with recruitment and labour brokers are specialised in this field, so they supposedly know where to find relevant people for the job. Though on appearance this sophistry is sound, it is thoroughly false because most of the people that are recruited through labour brokers are unskilled workers that requires no targeted recruitment and instead are abundantly available everywhere to be accessible for any employer seeking their labour. Most skilled workers are employed directly and generally with benefits than the unskilled workers, who are being casualised in this manner, because employers generally fear unnecessary loss of their skills and always strive to preserve them as much as they can.
The other argument that employers have no time or resources to devote towards management fo these workers again is mere falsehood because the daily monitoring and actual exercise of control over the labour processes and workers involved still rest with the main employer, meaning therefore that the actual aspects of the managemnet of these workers is still being carried out by the main employer and the labour broker is not playing any meaningful role, that is the reason that most of these workers usually do not even know the labour broker they’re supposed to be on his employment. This situation is evidenced by the usual dispute on the actual employer that mostly accompanies dispute involving workers through labour brokers.
All this again point to the main point of our contention that labour brokers, not only distort labour relations between the actual employer and the workers but they merely serve the most base interests of intensifying exploitation of the workers by the main bosses, whilst they in turn gain parasitically in that process, only at the extreme cost to the poor masses of the working people.
We therefore submit that the only way out of this is for the parliament to pass legislation that effectively bring to an end this scourge of capitalist parasitism and prohibit any further operation or usage of the labour brokering. This certainly is in the objective of the workers and sound industrial relations in the country, a goal that inspired a struggle for the current legislative regime on labour law.
By Ben Peterson
(National Education and Research Coordinator of Metal and Electrical Workers Union of South Africa (MEWUSA)). This presentation was recently submitted to the Parliament of South Africa’s Portfolio Committee on Labour)