The South African Federation of Trade Unions and #OutsourcingMustFall is marching in Johannesburg today, Thursday 14 December 2017, to protest against the exploitation of workers through the outsourcing of work, retrenchment of employees, the increasing use of casual workers and use of labour brokers, in both the private and public sectors.
The Life Esidimeni outrage has highlighted in the most extreme and horrific way the dire consequences of outsourcing to outside organizations work as important as medical care, without any proper checks on the quality of the care being offered.
The result was that mentally disabled persons were transported like cattle, sometimes tied in bakkies on the way to the NGOs where they were being dumped. They were deprived of decent accommodation and proper nutrition and left with no adequate medical assistance and medication. At least 143 patients died of illness or starvation. And this was just to save money!
Esidimeni however is just the tip of the iceberg. Hospitals and clinics around the country are hopelessly understaffed and under-equipped, as their budgets shrink, staff are retrenched and work is outsourced to private companies. It is the same story in schools and universities, national, provincial and local government departments even prisons. Jobs are lost and services are reduced.
This is all justified in terms of cutting costs and saving money. Yet there is growing evidence that outsourcing in the public sector does not in the long run save money. The profits which go to the private companies swallow up more money than is saved by retrenching permanent staff.
This all happening in a country where, by the expanded definition, unemployment stands at 36‚8%. 9‚4 million people have no job and 3.2 million South Africans aged between 15 and 24, are neither employed nor enrolled in education or training.
These are people we should be trained and payed to do the kind of job that those Esidimeni patients so desperately needed but were denied. Hospitals, schools and local communities are crying out for people who can provide better services, while people who could deliver those services as languishing at hone with no job and no money.
What makes it even worse is the growing evidence that outsourcing is often linked to corruption, as contracts for outsourced functions are awarded to families and friends at an inflated price.
This is what happens when the morality of the private capitalist sector invades the public space. Private employers have for years been using outsourcing to cut their wage bill by replacing permanent employees with casuals, and full-time staff with part-timers. Invariably the outsourced workers earn lower salaries and receive fewer benefts.
The most serious scourge in both sectors is the continued use of labour brokers, despite an amendment to the labour laws which is supposed to have restricted their use to only three months, after which them workers must be deemed to be permanent employees.
Many employers are also in breach of a judgment of the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) in the case NUMSA v Assign Services and 3 Others, 10 July 2017. It ruled that precarious workers must be able to access the protections enacted for their benefit in the amended Labour Relations Act (LRA).
The Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector, representing the interests of labour brokers, is openly encouraging its members to disregard this judgment. It is defying not only the will of the court, but also of Parliament, which in 2014, amended Section 198A of the LRA in order to clarify that employers must fulfill obligations to all workers, including those engaged through a labour broker.
Employers who heed this advice will try to cut wages and outsource jobs to labour brokers, which will lead to lower wages in the country as a whole.
#OutsoucingMust Fall has won important victories in reinstating workers in institutions of higher learning, which have created important precedents for other service providers in Government institutions like Prasa, DID, Ekurhuleni municipality etc.
In February 2016, TUT management signed an agreement with #OutsourcingMustFall bringing an end to the TUT workers’ heroic month-long
This followed the #OutsourcingMustFall-led strikes that defeated outsourcing and won wage rises of up to 300% at the University of Pretoria, the University of South Africa and Medunsa.
TUT Management agreed to phase out outsourcing over the next two years, increasing the minimum wage for newly insourced workers by 100% to R5,000.
Whilst this falls short of the R10,000 minimum wage demanded by workers, TUT management has agreed to continue discussions about a timetable for raising the minimum wage to R10,000 by 2019.
Other key concessions include an agreement that there will be no victimisation of workers who took part in this unprotected strike, that the interdict banning protests on and around campus will not be enforced and that criminal charges against workers taking part in protests will be dropped.
TUT management however refused to even recognise the workers’ committees and the #OutsourcingMustFall campaign. They attempted to impose an
agreement with the ANC-aligned NEHAWU union which workers had never even belonged to. Not only had NEHAWU refused to organise outsourced workers for years, but they organised gangs of thugs to try and break the #OutsourcingMustFall strike.
SAFTU calls for solidarity action by all workers to ensure that labour broking will finally be outlawed, and that this human trafficking in workers stops completely.
SAFTU and #Outsourcing Must Fall demand that:
* Reinstate all workers recently retrenched through the termination of contracts with service providers
* Scrap all EPWP, Jozi@work, CWP programmes and employ the participants on a full-time basis with all benefits.
* The Gauteng Premier must honour a commitment that he made in public that all outsourced staff and labour broking would be ended by December, which has not yet happened.