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Jobs at risk if government bans labour brokers: Herman Mashaba – chairman, Free Market Foundation

‘We could have another million South Africans in the unemployment labour pool.’

HILTON TARRANT: Well, labour brokers and the practice of labour broking are under renewed threat from government. Members of parliament’s portfolio committee on labour, in an about-turn last week, want to change the definition of “temporary employment” from six months to zero months, which will effectively outlaw labour broking. Herman Mashaba is chairman of the Free Market Foundation.
   Herman, this is estimated to be an industry worth R44bn, where from 850 000 to one million workers are placed by labour brokers in the country, It’s a very sizeable and important part of the country’s labour force.
HERMAN MASHABA: Well, absolutely, Hilton. That’s a reason why we as the Free Market Foundation really took this as another surprise, and unfortunately a negative one from that point of view. And I don’t think we really have to look at it in terms of the value and the size of the industry. Let’s really look at the people involved. We are sitting with seven million South Africans unemployed and the reason why these South Africans are unemployed is because of the rigorous labour regime that we’ve really suffered under for the last 10 to 15 years. And I think we really need to do something about it because the reasons why labour brokers are playing a very significant role in the economy of our country is to help the business community to deal with this rigorous labour regime which we need to do something about.

HILTON TARRANT: It’s almost as if people who are proposing these policy decisions – and I’m not necessarily referring only to these latest discussions around labour broking – it’s almost as if they are not really aware of how tough it is to run a business.

HERMAN MASHABA: Absolutely. And if you look at it, small businesses in particular have really been the biggest victims of this labour regime because in our country today, if you don’t really have a professional HR department, you are really looking for trouble in the employment of people. And now we’ve got the labour brokers playing a very key role in assisting in those that do not really have this sophisticated mechanism to deal with this.
   Now all of a sudden we talk about actually bailing them. What is really going to happen, we could have another million South Africans in the unemployment labour pool, which would be very, very unfortunate, because we are not going to address unemployment by punishing the business community.

HILTON TARRANT: In terms of business itself, should government really just be focused on letting business – and enabling business to – get on with it?

HERMAN MASHABA: Well, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an economist to see the devastating effect of what this labour legislation has done to our country over the last 10, 15 years. I’m sure you are aware, Hilton, of the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report for 2013 – where it places South Africa. Unfortunately we are not doing very well. And where we are really failing as a country is on labour matters. So this is something that the international communities are very much aware of – the problem that our country faces. And we expect our parliamentarians, our lawmakers, to really be sensitive to this because this report is not something that is there to punish South Africa. It’s something which is a reality.

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