Nxesi: Forced labour amid COVID-19 lockdown is a criminal offence

Nxesi: Forced labour amid COVID-19 lockdown is a criminal offence

Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has warned employers who don't provide an essential service but are forcing their employees to work.

Thulas Nxesi
Pic Courtesy: GCIS

"In terms of Regulations 11 (g), this is a criminal offence and puts at risk not only these employees but all who they are in contact with and goes against the call for as many of us as possible to stay at home," he said. 

Nxesi said these employers are either unaware - or are ignoring the lockdown regulations set out in the Disaster Management Act.

He's asking workers who are in this situation to report their bosses to the police.

"Any worker who does this and is subsequently victimised will be protected by the labour relations act since this will be an unfair labour practice."

He said companies which provide an essential service must also ensure their worker's safety at this time - in the form of protective gear and social distancing.

READ: SA lockdown: Damning allegations levelled against Umhlanga call centre

Nxesi said some companies have also obtained fraudulent permits in order to stay open during the lockdown.

"The labour inspectors report daily to me on their findings; at this stage, we are urging non-compliant employers to do the right thing. If the situation persists, we will start to name and shame individual companies."

He says they've received complaints of some companies who're shifting the burden of the lockdown onto employees by using their annual leave - while others are forcing workers to take unpaid leave.

"We do understand that in terms of the leave determination employers can negotiate with employees to take leave at any time that they deem fit. However, this is a unique situation which requires that all of us to act in a manner that promotes social solidarity."

The minister says employers and employees with queries can call the hotline number: 012 337 1997 

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