Showdown over labour brokers

UNION bosses are planning a showdown with Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana at the National Education Development and Labour Council over Mdladlana's refusal to ban labour brokers.

Mdladlana wants to change the Labour Relations Act to give him the authority to ban labour brokers in certain sectors of the economy only - if he sees fit.

His proposals - contained in a document in Sowetan's possession - are a marked departure from Mdladlana's statement in December that the ANC would "ban labour brokers" if it won the elections.

But the negotiations at Nedlac later this month seem to have hit a stone wall even before they started.

"Labour brokers are the worst thing right now for South African workers," Education Health and Allied Workers' Union spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said yesterday.

Union bosses are planning a showdown with the government and business in Nedlac, where any amendments to labour laws have to be successfully negotiated before Parliament debates them.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said the federation wanted a total ban of labour brokers.

National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni said "there is a need to improve on Mdladlana's document".

South African Municipal Workers' Union chief negotiator Dale Forbes said his union wanted Mdladlana to "follow the route of Namibia" - which has banned labour brokers.

"We set wages through negotiations but when workers get subcontracted to labour brokers, they get paid less than we negotiated," Forbes said.

Parliament will hold public hearings on the proposed amendments later this month. But unions are planning to set up meetings between ANC MPs and workers employed by labour brokers before then, so that the MPs can hear first-hand what problems workers have with labour brokers.