The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) acknowledges the Draft National Labour Migration Policy and Employment Services Amendment Bill issued by the Department of Employment and Labour (DoEL) on 28 February 2022. Although the Ministry of Labour has granted interested parties 90 days to make written submissions on the said Amendment Bill, efforts of this nature, in reality, navigate us to both the politics and contradictions inherent within migration and mobility.
The Amendment Bill, without devilling into its content, for now, is a constant reminder that capital is not static but a fluid relationship that is set in motion through trade and/or exchange of commodities with money playing a mediating role as a measure of value and means of circulation. The domestic, geopolitical and global movement of capital including its dominant ideas and embedded economic and non-economic institutions demonstrates that this mode of production is both a social and power relation located in the base and superstructure of bourgeois economies.
The 2011 National Development Plan (NDP) emphasised the importance of mobility (people and commodities) through public and freight transport in reorganising and repurposing the South African economy following the 2008/9 global economic crisis. This perspective read in conjunction with the history of South Africa reveals that within the movement of capital exists a web of socially contagious pandemics ranging from colonialism, xenophobia, patriarchy, femicide, class distinctions, stratification and other forms of dominance that are essential for the social reproduction of the political economy in question. This does not necessitate that within the productive, industrial and technological culture of capitalism progressive relations cease to exist, however, it goes without saying that its negative effects outweigh its positive conditions.
The Draft National Migration Policy and Employment Services Amendment Bill intends to better manage the challenges associated with migration but material reality demonstrates that restriction on human mobility as opposed to the free movement of capital is the main problem affecting the Global South, in general, and South Africa, in particular. Dependency Theorists would argue that the development of the Global North has always relied on the unevenness, exploitation and reproduction of underdevelopment of the Global South. The challenges and animosity concerning the employment of migrant workers are therefore an extension of these developmental contradictions. It is disheartening to observe that industries that are dependent on precarious forms of employment are often inundated by aggressive competition for employment which often results in inter ethical conflicts.
SATAWU supports the notion that the Amendment Bill should amongst others facilitate and regulate the employment of foreign nationals in the South African economy without infringing the employees’ fundamental rights as contained in the Consitution of the Republic. Notwithstanding that those circumstances which have the potential to impact adversely on existing labour standards, rights, expectations of South African workers and availability of critical skills in the labour market have to be mitigated, managed and averted accordingly. We also support the idea that South Africa’s labour market should create conditions that promote employment, education and training opportunities for all employees.
Introducing a framework that regulates the employment of foreign nationals in South Africa may sound progressive however, when race and ethnicity are introduced in the discussion, we come across further restrictions on the mobility and access to employment opportunities for individuals/natives of African descent. The support for and regulation of low-cost and precarious forms of employment that are not decent in nature defeats the purpose of negating the bane of poverty and helplessness encountered by the marginalised irrespective of nationality or countries of origin. This does not mean that precarious forms of employment should not be regulated instead they ought to be treated as a violation of the human and labour rights of the working class. Similarly, the employment of undocumented nationals should equally be treated as a violation of labour and human rights since the latter aims to reenact the apartheid migrant labour system that was abolished after the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
Based on the highlighted factors, the union will critically apply its mind and respond to the DoEL’s Draft National Migration Policy and Employment Services Amendment Bill within the specified timeframe. In the meantime, the DoEL is urged to intensify and increase the number of inspectors to hold non-compliant employers located in the Transport, Private Security and Contract Cleaning industries accountable for violating the labour and human rights of both South Africans and migrant workers. The Ministry of Labour must equally work with organised labour and bargaining councils to uproot employers that continue to subject the marginalised to animal-like conditions. The presence of labour brokers that are conveyor belts and proponents of exploitation and dehumanisation must be brought to an end by the Ministry of Labour without fail or further delays. Lastly, the inquiry at hand demonstrates that challenges of movement, migration and mobility are inherent in the structure and crisis of the capitalist mode of production.
Issued by: South African Transport & Allied Workers Union For more information, contact:
SATAWU General Secretary: Jack Mazibuko: 082 660 4793
SATAWU Deputy General Secretary: Anele Kiet: 071 021 1903