A war of words has erupted following a recent announcement by the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) that spells out the conditions under which foreign nationals can be employed.
In terms of an amendment to the NBCRFLI’s collective agreement, foreign nationals without visas to work in the country or whose visas have terms and conditions attached to them may not be employed by South African companies. But with a poorly functioning Home Affairs
department, the issue is not that simple.
Gavin Kelly, spokesperson for the Road Freight Association (RFA), called on the NBCRFLI to be more proactive and ensure that the relevant government arms sorted out issues in the industry before they became a problem.
“The real tragedy is that there are a lot of instances where the structures that are in place aren’t fulfilling their functions.” He said the council had succeeded in fine-tuning employment regulations, plugging up any loopholes where they may or may not have existed. This included re-wording the respective clause to pointedly specify what visas, work permit terms and conditions, and capacity restrictions applied to employing foreign nationals. In addition, the new collective agreement places the onus on local employers in the transport and logistics arena to ensure that their workers are legal.
But Kelly claims it’s easier said than done. “Although employers must abide by the bargaining council’s clauses, the council should see to it that the processes they have instituted are adhered to. “Employers should in turn help their drivers to obtain the necessary visas, but it’s the council’s responsibility to see to it that where illegals are employed it’s dealt with by relying on support from government institutions.”
Speaking on behalf of employers, Kelly added that they had enough reason to employ foreign nationals. “It makes sense from a practical point of view as many drivers from neighbouring countries have a language advantage, know the customs of the countries they come from, and are familiar with routes and related requirements.”
Kelly said that as far as the RFA was concerned, “we support local trucking companies who are employing foreign nationals as long as it’s legal.”
He furthermore criticised the Department of Home Affairs, claiming that much of the anger from local drivers was based on unsubstantiated figures about the number of foreign nationals employed as drivers in South Africa.
His view seems to be supported by the news on Friday that Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has secured at least two legal heavy-hitters, Dali Mpofu and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, in taking the department to court.
According to EWN, Mashaba claims that Home Affairs “is not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide every resident in the country with the correct identity documentation”. More importantly, a representative from the Africa Diaspora Forum (ADF) said it did not matter what the council decided in terms of amended clauses. “Home Affairs is ineffective, corrupt, and lacks the necessary capacity to effectively deal with the demand of displaced people.”
Requesting not to be named fearing intimidation, the ADF representative said sometimes foreign nationals were legally employed but found themselves in red tape limbo when visas weren’t renewed or extraneous issues caused delay. FTWOnline