Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has vowed to tackle challenges faced by the public at the Department's Labour Centre in Pinetown.
Nxesi made the commitment during a visit to the centre on Thursday.
Accompanied by Deputy Minister Boitumelo Moloi, Nxesi interacted with customers at the centre as part of his efforts to understand challenges faced at Labour Centres nationally and find ways to better support and improve service delivery at these centers.
The Pinetown Labour Centre, which provides services to areas such as New Germany, Westmead, Hillcrest, Kloof, Waterfall, KwaDabeka, KwaNdengezi, and Hammersdale, faces daily challenges. These include long queues and a compressed building that is unable to accommodate staff and scores of clients.
"When we go back, we will sit down and apply our minds to the challenges presented to us today. We will be doing rounds all over the country to try to mitigate and solve the issues faced by our people. We are the law bearers of the labor laws and we, therefore, should be leading by example," said Nxesi.
Moloi said officials should not see these visits as trying to police them but, rather as an effort to try and assist where it's possible.
The Minister and his deputy, accompanied by a team of inspectors, also visited the Durban China Mall.
Upon arrival, several employers – largely foreign nationals – avoided the delegation while those who remained refused to cooperate with inspectors.
Nxesi's interactions with employees revealed that almost 90% of them were foreign nationals with no working permits.
Labour laws such as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, Unemployment Insurance Act and the passed National Minimum Wage Act, were not complied with by all the employers visited, the department said in the statement.
"What is very clear from the interactions we had is the gross violation of the labor rights and it's something that we are seriously going to look into. The fact that 90% of the workers in these shops are foreign nationals is a clear indication of the exploitation of cheap labor by employers.
"There are serious violations of the labor standards; people work from Monday to Sunday; there is no respect for their labor rights. No one is allowed to take leave, be it sick or maternity leave. The employers just cut their salaries as they wish. Workers don't have contracts and pay-slips, something very basic that a worker is must-have," said the Minister.
Nxesi said the trend of exploiting workers is happening largely in the hospitality industry, farming, and the retail sectors. He said exploitation by employers is not a question on Chinese employers singled out, but, even South African employers are exploiting foreigners for cheap labor.
"Employers are using foreigners because they know they are desperate and will take anything offered to them," said Nxesi.
He said the Department would be increasing the number of inspectors to tackle the influx.
"If it means we have to issue out the prohibition notices that these businesses must close, then we will do it. We have labor laws which must be respected in this particular country and people cannot come and do anything they want," said Nxesi.
The Minister will conclude his visits today with a meeting with employers and labor organizations in the trucking industry at the Durban Royal Hotel.
(With Inputs from South African Government Press Release)