Heilbron in northern Free State faces intensive workplace inspections

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

The Labour Department will be taking a hard line on labour law violators and might even impose prison sentences as it targets businesses in the northern Free State town of Heilbron for intensive workplace inspections this week.

Department spokesman Zolisa Sigabi said: "If a company is found to be noncompliant, they'll be given 60 days to correct themselves and will be inspected again. If a person is in serious violation, even after the 60 days, they'll be closed down and taken to court. A prison sentence is a strong possibility especially where there are reported injuries or fatalities, which we are trying to prevent."

Inspectors will be checking for compliance with basic conditions of employment, unemployment insurance, employment equity, compensation for occupational injuries and diseases, and occupational health and safety acts.

Sectors targeted for inspections include private security, contract cleaning, wholesale and retail, manufacturing and construction "and all other sectors where the acts apply except for the farming sector".

Heilbron business owners welcomed the inspections, saying they had nothing to hide.

Jan van Vuuren, owner of Shalom Hardware, said: "They've been here two or three times already. So far we are lucky, because we've been working well in our business. Everything is in place and everyone is happy."

Living in Heilbron is cheaper than in larger cities, and a local hotel owner felt the sector's minimum wage requirements might be unfair on a small town operator.

"I've only been operating for five months, and I haven't seen the inspector yet. I'm not sure that we should be paying as much as the guys in the bigger cities," he said.

"There are a few other issues I would like to raise with them," the hotel owner said.

"For instance, they claimed I wasn't registered for workman's compensation when I had the documentation to prove I was. Other than that I am happy. The government is only trying to help small businesses perform better."