Labour inspectors locked in by employer and workers

[CAPE TOWN, WESTERN CAPE] The Department of Employment and Labour in the Western Cape has put a stop to operations at a local call centre after the company failed to satisfy labour inspectors during a reactive inspection at the work place.  

On Wednesday, 12 August, an inspection was conducted at African Debt Advisors (ADA) following a tip-off. During the inspection, the company was found to be in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act no. 85 of 1993.

The company was not able to present a risk assessment that spoke to COVID-19 regulations, there was no personal protective equipment provided to staff, there was a general lack of social distancing and poor sanitisation. During a walk-about, it was also observed that the company did not follow some of the basic principles associated with the OHS Act.  The company was found to be in contravention of the environmental regulations on fire prevention as all fire equipment was outdated. Based on the comprehensive findings, the employer was issued with a prohibition notice and asked to vacate the premises. Prohibition notices essentially means that no operations may take place at the premises where the notice was served. 

According to David Esau, Provincial Chief Inspector (PCI), part of the inspection process is to inform employees and employers of the findings. This however was not well received and the employees reacted with contempt towards the Department. “This reaction lead to the lives of the inspectors being placed at risk and as they tried to leave the premises. The entrances were blocked by the employees and employer, demanding us to overrule our decision that the premises were dangerous”. The PCI advised the employer of the risks if they continued with operations.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) was called as the inspectors were threatened by the continued aggressiveness of both the employer and employees. The Department is now in the process of issuing a subpoena to the employer to appear before the PCI to explain the absence of documents required to follow up on allegations of defrauding the COVID-TERS system and the exploitation of workers.

This comes after the employer was also inspected in respect of the Unemployment Insurance Act.  The employer has been asked to provide information of employees listed on the payroll, an approved and rejected list of employees under the COVID-TERS benefit for applications made for April, May and June 2020. The information is expected to also included advances made to staff, deductions, and a list of staff who did not work for the set period and also did not receive COVID-TERS.

A follow-up visit will be conducted to determine if the employer continued with operations as this will be deemed a criminal offence, as the employer was prohibited from continuing operations until evidence is produced that there is compliance with COVID-19 regulations.

OHS inspectors will continue to visit workplaces in the area to monitor compliance, act on tip-offs and implement the necessary actions where required. 

“By washing our hands, using masks and staying home, we can defeat the pandemic”-ENDS-For more information, contact:David EsauProvincial Chief Inspector082 791 4485Issued by: Department of Employment and Labour

Source: Department of Labour at http://www.labour.gov.za/labour-inspectors-locked-in-by-employer-and-workers