PRETORIA, The South African Department of Labour has reiterated its stance of condemning any form of child labour and of promoting the protection of children following the apparent disregard of labour laws by two farmers in Wesselsbron in Free State province.
The department said here Wednesday that it was conducting blitz inspections on farms in the area where one farmer is alleged to have contravened labour laws such as Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), Sectoral Determination 13: Farm Workers Sector (SD13), Unemployment Insurance Act (UIA), Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) and Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
Children below the legal age were identified as part of the workforce on two farms in Wesselsbron, and the Labour Inspector has opened a case against one farmer for contravening section 43 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) which prohibits work by children.
There were 23 children who were saved from the two farms and in collaboration with the Department of Social Development, these children were taken to a place of safety.
“It was also discovered that some of these seasonal employees have not been paid ever since they started working there, with some receiving partial payment which is still not in accordance with the minimum wages for farm workers,” the department said.
Since Monday, the Department of Labour has been working to register complaints from 181 seasonal employees. Failure by the employer to pay the outstanding wages as prescribed will result in prosecution being recommended.
Employees were made aware of health risks they are exposed to and control measures the employer should have put in place to mitigate those risks. Subsequent to that, work was stopped immediately.
The appalling, hazardous and inhumane conditions the farmer exposed his seasonal employees to necessitated collaboration between relevant government departments and a joint operation by the Department of Labour, Department of Home Affairs (Interior), Department of Human Settlements and Social Development, as well as the South African Police Service (SAPS) was carried out.
Subsequently, the SAPS removed all employees from Driehoek farm where they stayed.
“To give impetus to the strides made thus far, the Free State Province has also mandated role players within the Youth and Social Responsibility Priority Committee to develop a joint action plan on how to eradicate child labour in the province,” said Nomfundo-Douw-Jack, the Chief Director for Provincial Operations, at the Labour Department.
“The Department of Labour and other law enforcement agencies are working tirelessly to bring to book the perpetrators of these alleged atrocities which resulted from the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK