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On Wednesday night, 16 November 2022, Newcastillian News joined various departments to conduct investigations of factories in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal’s industrial area.
Spearheading the initiative, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Employment and Labour explained that the inspection stemmed from a series of concerns brought to the Department’s attention, with numerous textile factories allegedly not fully compliant with the law.
These concerns included staff working longer hours than legally permitted, poor living and safety conditions at work, the employment of illegal immigrants and staff not being paid the required minimum wages or UIF.
With six teams gathering at the Department of Employment and Labour in Newcastle on Wednesday evening, the Department of Labour highlighted that it had joined forces with the Department of Home Affairs, who had immigration officers on hand, and the SAPS. The importance of the team, comprised of officials from different divisions, was essential in ensuring a thorough process, explained the Department.
Moreover, the inspections into the textile sector officially commenced on Monday, 14 November 2022. Since then, approximately 100 people from across the Amajuba District were taken into custody by the Department of Home Affairs immigration officers, all of whom are now to be processed.
On Wednesday night, six textile companies were targeted to ensure they were up to standard. While factory owners met the teams with a degree of caution, the task proved to be an eye-open, showcasing the shockingly poor conditions certain local workers have to endure.
At one factory in Gutenberg Street, it was discovered that while employees lived on the premises, they did so in deplorable conditions. Their bedrooms consisted of makeshift beds that resembled shoddy cubicles, while the kitchen showcased minimal attention to hygiene.
On top of this, upon speaking to some of the staff members, it was discovered that there were times when they were expected to work for 24 hours straight, with no rest.
With the enforcement team sifting meticulously through the factory’s paperwork, pursuing their employee and business records, Nhlanhla Khumalo, Spokesperson for the KZN Department of Labour, explained that the department would be investigating the factory to ensure it was brought up to par.
“We will be looking at safety, the basic conditions of employment, occupation and safety, employment equity, minimum wages, UIF, workers’ compensation, sectoral determinations, to mention but a few.”
While describing the evening, Khumalo said that it was a start to increasing the respective standards expected from the Newcastle textile sector.
However, he noted the inspections were part of a much larger picture. “The Department of Employment and Labour, in collaboration with other government departments, will host a district development model (DDM) session in Amajuba on 24 November 2022.” The session is to be preceded by build-up activities in and around the Amajuba district from 8 November to 23 November 2022.
“Through community engagement sessions, the DDM is an important public participation platform that reinforces the values of a listening government and elevates community voices,” he said.
Khumalo further noted that the DDM would focus on the following:
- Solicit feedback on how to improve service delivery to meet the needs of the community.
- Listen to practical suggestions on how society as a whole can improve their lives without leaving anyone behind.
- Assist in identifying issues that impede service delivery and economic opportunities in the Amajuba community.
Concluding, an informative evening was enjoyed with the team, who professionally handled the difficult task of addressing these troubling issues, right here in good old Newcastle.
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