Migrant Labour Benefitting In The South African Job Market While Locals Remain Unemployed

Immigrants are benefiting from the slightly recovering job market while natives are not. The unemployment rate in South Africa is very high at around 30 percent, and there is a large pool of unskilled and semi-skilled workers in South Africa. Many employers tend to prefer employing South African citizens over foreigners, and those who do hire employees from abroad must first prove they have been unable to find a South African citizen to fill the position.

Brandon Manique stated; “The  unemployment rate currently stands at more than 30 percent, and more than 3 million people have  lost their jobs due to covid-19 in South Africa.

The unemployment crisis for South Africans is critical, we live in an area of abundant work yet we remain unemployed.

Transnet, a State owned company, has Stefanutti building tanks at TM1 at Island view. They have 38 foreigner nationals from India who were employed before and during Covid-19, even during lockdown In positions that can be filled by South Africans. They have been employed as; Riggers, General Workers, Assistant Fitters and Welders, yet there is no shortage of such skills locally”.  

On Thursday July 23 in a peaceful protest, the following memorandum was delivered to Transnet;

Subject: Memorandum

MEMORANDUM TO TRANSNET TM1 Tank Building Project RTanks/Sapref Tanks 


Simon Malindi,

Pravesh Lognath

Rob Westermeyer

Herewith our Demands

1)The Immediate Removal from Site of Foreign Nationals from India under Steffanutti/Vj Tanks. Immediate Moratorium on all foreign Nationals during Covid. Non Negotiable. 

2)Absolutely Totally and Completely no Labour Brokers.

3)The commitment by Mr Leslie Logan (Representing the Stefanutti/VJ Tanks Joint Venture) who addresses our community at the WOW Centre in Austerville, Wentworth to employ from South Durban Basin to be immediately implemented. Until then a full a Moratorium on Recruitment. 

4)Removal of Marius Van Rensburg from all communication and engagements as he operates in Extreme Bad faith and is a blatant liar. This was agreed to by the Stefanutti/VJ tanks Joint Venture. Yet he continues to Meddle and is the source of great deliberate miscommunications.

5)Immediate assessments and employment for South Durban Basin who qualify for employment on Site. With Oversight and Monitoring of these processes. 

6)The Full Supplier Development/Local Economic Spend plan to be implemented as per agreement for our local stakeholder communities in relation to CSI for the benefit and upliftment of our Community.

7)Full Skills Development Plan to be implemented as per agreement for the benefit and upliftment of our community 

8)Immediate Access to Site for CLOs as they are the eyes and ears of Community duly mandated by ourselves the  community. This is non negotiable. 

9)No Monies allocated to Community Development to be spent on Service Providers or Subcontractors at all. Non Negotiable. 

10)Immediate Sit Down within 24 hours with our leaders failing which we will have no alternative but to use all means at our disposal to engage Media, Transnet CEO Ms Portia Derby and Rally Further Solidarity within the KZB region with our other alliance partners to place a moratorium on this project in its totality.

South African legislation tries to sway employers towards employing local citizens. When seeking to employ foreign nationals, it is crucial to establish their lawful status before commencing employment. This is due to the fact that the Employee protections created by the Labour Relations Act and other statutes, may make it difficult to terminate the employment relationship later on if the employee is found to be working illegally.

The ANC is set to impose restrictions on the employment of foreigners and unions are welcoming the move amid an ongoing jobs debate in the country.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the Government was called on to set strict parameters on the employment ratios of South African citizens and foreign nationals in locally owned businesses.

With slow economic growth due to the covid-19 outbreak, and high unemployment, the same questions are asked about legal foreign workers, particularly those who gain entry into the country each year.

Foreign-hiring programs generally stem from the premise that South Africans aren’t skilled enough or won’t do certain jobs. These claims evoke skepticism from many academics and labor rights advocates. 

Critical skills refers to particular capabilities needed within an occupation. There is also a distinction between absolute and relative scarcity of skills.

Further to this, the directive states that, for a general work permit, the application has to be accompanied by a certificate from the Department of Labour or an estimate from the database of a salary benchmark in the organisation stipulating the average salary earned by others in similar positions in the republic. It has to indicate that there has been a diligent search for a local worker, if no local is able to fill the post, then there would be a need for a foreigner to fill the position.

The law clearly places the onus on the employer to comply with the relevant legislation and holds the employer liable for non-compliance. 

South African legislation attempts to sway employers towards employing local citizens. When seeking to employ foreign nationals, it is crucial to establish their lawful status before commencing employment. This is due to the fact that the Employee protections created by the Labour Relations Act and other statutes, may make it difficult to terminate the employment relationship later on if the employee is found to be working illegally.

Frank Alexander;  Trustee of the South Durban Basin Community Development Trust, expressed;

“As seasoned observers of industrial relations in South Africa we have observed that the Foreign National Question is so emotive that it’s one of those that people want to wish away.

The reality is Foreign Nationals working is South Africa tend to produce the same trends. Not Critical Skills, long working hours (people getting locked up in buildings, factories etc) breach of the Countries Labour Laws by paying extremely low wages or breaching Sectorial Determinations, Sector Main agreements and Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Two pieces of legislation, Employment Services Act and Immigration Act are clear.

You can’t hire a foreign National for a skill that exists in the parameters of the country.

The Dept of Labour has their own database of the unemployed and can peruse and try to find the skill required. The Dept of Labour can also engage private employment agencies to further satisfy themselves. They will then make a recommendation to Home Affairs.

In our case like other countries, South Africa is signatory to the International Labour Organisation and this is within the parameters of the legally permitted guidelines world wide.

Even now, as we speak, during international lockdowns there are Foreign National workers at TM1 Transnet, Sappi Saiccor under Murray and Roberts. Across all sectors. That we know of.

I wish to be clear, no worker employs himself, the Company does this to see people from Taiwan, India, Singapore, Croatia, Pakistan working during Covid lockdown in your backyard is painful and hard to digest.

The powers that be that permit this are engaged in actions tantamount to treason. This is the Apex of Patriotic betrayal.

We wish to reiterate that this question of Foreign labour is not a question of Xenophobia, we advocate for worker solidarity always across the world.

The facts demonstrate that some unscrupulous employers are engaged in the practice of Employing Foreign Nationals for the sole purpose of exploitation, breaching of existing labour laws and practices across all sectors of the economy.

We cannot sacrifice principle and righteousness at the altar of political correctness and trigger words”.

That said, employment of foreigners is designed to be a short-term measure to bridge the skills  within an employer’s business and to facilitate the transfer of skills. Employers should, therefore, ensure that the relevant skills are transferred to a South African citizen and that the necessary time and resources are invested in transferring and retaining the skills in South Africa.

By: Lorraine Richards  

“breaching “ Sectorial Determinations not Breathing Sectorial determinations

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