Unemployed artisans from the South Durban Basin took to the streets on 4 October to protest against Transnet’s unlawful employment of foreign Indian labor while scores of local, skilled artisans remain unemployed.
The protestors, led by Thulani Mzobe, and Allan Holmes gathered at the ex-pats residence, and before they could report for duty at the Transnet site, they locked the gates of the Bed and Breakfast, preventing the foreigners from exiting. As a result, production was at a standstill at TM1 for the day
Immigration legislation strictly prohibits the employment of foreign labor unless extremely stringent, procedures are first carried out. However, foreign workers often accept lower wages, are frequently willing to work without invoking their labor law rights and, in many cases, they don’t have high skill levels.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have widespread impacts on workforces globally, migrant workers are among those bearing the brunt of the crisis. Human rights groups and construction associations have warned that migrant workers are at risk from the impact of the pandemic.
It is therefore not surprising that so many employers turn a blind eye to the laws and immigration requirements. However, they do this at their peril because the courts have the power to repatriate illegal immigrants and to impose heavy fines on offending employers.
For some reason, employers have preferred foreign labor over South Africans. Sometimes it is because it is cheap labor that they can easily exploit. We have scores of unemployed South Africans in the construction sector, while foreign labor is being employed in spite of the critical skills act .
In terms of Section 19(4) of the Immigration Act, 2002 as amended, candidates who possess skills as specified on the critical skills list as published by the Department of Home Affairs, may be granted a visa in this category where they can show that they possess such skills and/or qualifications. Typical skills listed on the Critical Skills list include engineers, corporate general managers, scientists, physicists, technicians, architects, quantity surveyors, risk assessors, integrated developers, IT specialists, health professionals, industrial pharmacists, tradesman, specialist support foreign-language speakers, academics etc.
Frank Alexander, trade unionist/activist-iterated; “We believe that a great injustice is taking place where we as South Africans and Local communities are playing second fiddle to so-called artisans from India whilst our local artisans starve with their families”
“We would like to reiterate that our struggle is not against fellow workers from anywhere in the world, our fight is against Employers who use our brothers and sisters from other countries to stir up divisions in the labor market. Universal worker solidarity always comes first. As we say a worker does not employ him or herself. Employers are the lawbreakers and not the workers.
We would like to encourage our local community to claim back the spaces with dignity.
We put faith before fear.
These are difficult times for the local community with poverty, unemployment, and inequality on our doorsteps.
We won’t be silenced!!
No Justice No Peace !!!”
By: Lorraine Richards