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Chinese Debate: Labour Minister Throws down the Gauntlet

by lloyd last modified 2008-07-04 14:10

Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana has thrown down the gauntlet

Released by Department of Labour on 27 June 2008

Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging the Chinese Association of South Africa (CASA) to distance itself from acts of gross workplace rights violations perpetrated by any employer.


The Minister was responding to media reports quoting CASA as labeling his earlier comments on non-complying South African employers of Chinese descent as “incorrect and irrational”.


Addressing the 21st annual Labour Law Conference in Johannesburg last night (Thur), Minister Mdladlana reiterated examples of such unlawful acts, including an incident in Newcastle where a female employee was forced to give birth at workplace because the company locked staff in the factory overnight, and a Botshabelo employer who opted to relocate to Lesotho than comply with the country’s labour laws.


He said that throughout his ten years as the minister he had always spoken strongly against any employer trampling on the rights of workers, adding that employer organizations like Business Unity South Africa and AgriSA had publicly condemned such acts.


“What I said against the Chinese employers, I have said against farmers, contractors, retailers and so on. Good employers do not allow their good image and reputation to be damaged by bad employers. We therefore expect CASA to do the same,” he said.  


Dismissing the “anti-Chinese” accusations leveled against him, he said that in all the incidents that he had cited as examples the employers had been Chinese.  


“When the Newcastle employer was visited by inspectors following that incident, he ordered them not to communicate in English. Whether he was from China, Taiwan or wherever I don’t know. All I know is that he is a Chinese,” he said.


Recapping comments that he made at a media briefing earlier this week, he said the judge had taken a wise decision in declaring South African Chinese as previously disadvantaged.


“I’m still saying we had also acted wisely by not opposing this decision because the critical point for us in the Department of Labour is that an employer is an employer  - regardless of their colour, race or origin.”


Reacting to reports that he has been reported to the Human Rights Commission for his comments, the Minister said his stance on worker-rights as being human rights was well documented.


“I was the first one to invite the Commission’s founding chairman, Professor Pityana to discuss the issue of workplace human rights erosion which even today is still sadly posing a serious challenge to our society.”


He told delegates at the conference that debates on legal compliance and competitive advantage remained out of context when ordinary people continued to die at the current rate at their workplaces in mining and construction.

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