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BAN LABOUR BROKERS - PETITION TO PARLY

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LOBAMBA – “Away with labour brokers!” Over 40 hotel employees and people hired in different industries have signed a petition, which calls for government to stop all labour brokers from operating in the country in all industries.


The petition was delivered yesterday morning to Parliament by Lobamba Indvuna Yenkhundla Bhekisisa Bhembe, with 12 representatives from the petitioners. The petition listed five grievances and it was directed to the House of Assembly, so it could be debated. The petitioners gave the Members of Parliament (MPs) 14 days to respond to their grievances and start the debate on the Labour Brokers Bill.


Received


The petition was received by Parliamentary Secretary Mpendulo Ngcamphalala. A labour broker, also referred to as a Temporary Employment Service (TES), is a person or company that provides labourers to client companies on a temporary basis. The workers work at the client company site but are the employees of the labour broker.


This means the labour broker is responsible for all the administrative work related to the employee such as payroll, taxes, leave administration and others.
According to the petition, the challenges with labour brokers started in 1992 through retrenchments that happened in hotels. The retrenchments encouraged the growth of labour brokers, which spread through lodges, supermarkets, banks and filling stations.


“We are now faced with what is called a labour brokers virus outbreak, which can only be treated by the Labour Brokers Bill and as a result, we are calling for an emergency debate of the Bill within 14 days,” reads the petition.
The first plea on the petition was that the House of Assembly debates the Labour Brokers Bill promptly instead of shifting it to an unknown date as this would, in turn, lead to hotels signing other contracts with the labour brokers.


“If there is delay, by the time the House debates this bill, the horse would have long bolted. We have gathered that the brokers are due to renew their contracts with the different entities in the next coming months. The early debate would free people from the oppression,” reads the petition.


It also requested Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini to intervene by assigning a private committee to work in the recompilation of the Labour Brokers Bill because some MPs and senators had conflicting interests in the matter. The petition claimed that parliamentarians had hotels, shares in hotels or owned labour broker companies. “This, in turn, will make them delay the debate or debate it in their favour,” said the petition. The petitioners also requested the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to force all labour brokers to claim their share in the E25 million COVID-19 layoff relief and compensation fund.


Lockdown


Also, it requested that employees should claim directly since some of the labour brokers had closed business and left the country amid the lockdown.
“We are in a dilemma as to how we will claim because we were left in the dark. Our benefits have not been given to us for three months now. The ministry and MPs should investigate the reasons that make hotels claim for permanent workers only, leaving us behind as casuals. All of us have been badly affected by the emergence and spread COVID-19,” the petition reads further.


The petitioners’ fourth grievance was that labour brokers were not utilising the gazette, underpaying workers across all sectors in the process. “They have made us work for more than 15 years as casuals and that is very unfair, especially to the youth. They do not give us letters of employment which leads us into suffering as we cannot take anything on credit and accumulate assets like furniture. We simply get slavery salaries and as a result, we call for all labour brokers to be banned in the Kingdom of Eswatini,” reads the petition. It was also requested that MPs should set up a relief fund that would pay rent for people employed by labour brokers who had lost their jobs.


“If creating the fund is not possible, we would appreciate it if the MPs would negotiate two months relief rent with our landlords since the E400 from the COVID-19 layoff relief and compensation fund is not sufficient for even two weeks’ groceries. We will die inside rented flats due to hunger or we will die on the street after being evicted,” read the petition. After receiving the petition, Ngcamphalala said they were not requested to respond to it but to process it. “If the petition has qualifying features we will send it to the House for debate and if it does not, we will contact Indvuna Yenkhundla, Bhekisisa Bhembe to inform you,” said Ngcamphalala.
The petitioners then moved to the Lobamba Inkhundla Centre to share their experiences while employed by labour brokers.
Meanwhile, one of the hotel employees who were sharing their experiences pointed out glaring disparities in salaries under labour brokers.
“The person in an equivalent position as I am earns E17 000 while I get E3 000 per month.” The hotel employees spoke on condition of anonymity.
Gap
While sharing about the salary gap, the hotel employee said it pained him to see his equal developing in life while he was still in the same position that he had been in the past 17 years that he had been employed.
“The person I am in the same position with drives a car and has built a house, but I have nothing. I still stay in a rented house and never dream of buying a car,” he said.
Another hotel employee said she was worried that they had no benefits to take home should they resign or retire.
Another employee, who had been working as a housekeeper at a hotel in Ezulwini said, “After working in that hotel for seven years, I was promised a E6 424.88 payout and I do not even know how they reached that amount as I was told by word of mouth over the counter.”
She said she was supposed to receive it on July 31.

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