SMMES: Small Companies, Small Wages

Do you have a section in your company that has been outsourced to a small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME)? Have you found out from those workers about their wages and working conditions? This is what Moshe Manoto found out when he spoke to two such outsourced workers.

Comrade Rose (not her real name) what is your basic rate?

We don't have a basic wage rate because our salary differs every month. Sometimes it is R400 per month, or R678. It never reaches R1000. I can't even pay my monthly debts.

How many hours do you work per day and are you paid overtime?

We work from 7am to 4pm . Sometimes we are required to work from 6am to 6pm but our salary stays the same. No overtime is paid. Our boss deducts 30% of our salary every month saying that it belongs to him. We don't know for what reason.

What kind of job are you doing?

We are working with different kinds of foodstuff tins, doom tins and so on. my job is the sorting of tins. Some of us are making the ends of tins.

Do you belong to a union?

We have filled in Numsa forms but no deductions have been made for the past 3 weeks. We are not sure whether they have been submitted or not.

What is the majority union in this company?

Numsa. But some of the good leaders have been promoted to managerial positions and are no longer shop stewards.

What kinds of benefits are you enjoying?

No benefits at all. I was once pregnant, but I was still doing hard work whidh is not supposed to be done by a pregnant woman. When I complained to my boss, she said that she is not the one who has impregnated me and threatened to dismiss me.

Our supervisor is a black lady who stays with us in a nearby township. She is also harassing us.

I went to the Numsa regional office to seek help from the legal officer because of this bad treatment. He wrote them a letter and after that they gave me unpaid maternity leave.

John (not his real name) works at another outsourced section of the same company:

Are you issued with safety equipment?

No. We were told to buy overalls for R60 per pair, safety gloves for R10 per pair. We have no safety boots. We are using our old shoes as safety boots. So the risk of being injured is very high. I was injured on duty on my left hand. You can see this injury is still fresh.

What injured you?

An iron which makes tins. I operate a machine inside a room and this had a safety door which used to protect the operator. But after this section was outsourced, certain safety wires from this door were cut off. So now it is not safe for us to operate here, but we are told by our boss to work here.

Were you paid sick leave?

No, I was not paid. The doctor gave me two weeks sick leave. Then my boss paid me a visit and told me that I must come to work. Because if I don't work he can't be paid by the company and then he can't pay us.

We must organise and help people in these outsourced sections so that we fight this exploitation, particularly where there is Numsa leadership. We must form part of the interviewing panel when SMMEs are appointed to outsourced sections.

And we must establish certain criteria like the following that these SMMEs should meet before being given these jobs:

workers must belong to a union and be fairly represented the outsourced company must abide by the collective agreement, including the rates of pay, that has been negotiated with the primary company the contractor must issue safety equipment the contractor and the employee must contribute to the industry provident fund the contractor must deduct UIF.

What other criteria do you think should be set for the SMMEs?

If you are like Rose or John or you know workers like Rose or John, then join a union that will fight this exploitation. And take up these issues with your nearest Department of Labour offices. Ask their inspectors to visit your workplaces.


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