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23 March 2012 | Rebecca Ellinor
The South African government has submitted proposals to guard against all forms of child labour to bring its laws in line with international standards.
Pretoria’s cabinet this week approved two bills for submission to parliament that amend the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).
The provisions in the BCEA that deal with the prohibition and regulation of child labour are to be extended to cover all work by children, not only work by children as employees. And the maximum prison sentence for an offence involving child or forced labour will be increased from three to six years. The amendments have been proposed to bring the BCEA in line with South Africa's International Labour Organisation Convention obligations.
The other key proposals are designed to tackle temporary labour and prevent exploitation of workers.
Labour minister Mildred Oliphant said the amendments had their origins in the growing ‘informalisation’ of work that had become a feature of the country’s labour market over the past decade. To stop workers continually being used as casual workers, temporary work will be limited to six months.
“When it comes to the fixed term contract - that should be guided on when that project is going to be finalised. Therefore, those workers will be taken as fixed term contract workers. The workers must be paid equally, irrespective of whether that worker is a temporary worker or a permanent worker,” she said.
Provisions will be introduced to facilitate unionisation of workers, agreements to cover vulnerable workers and ensure the right to permanent employment for affected workers.
The bills will be considered by the Portfolio Committee on Labour before being submitted to the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces respectively for adoption.