July 26 2012 at 05:00am

Labour brokers were described as “super exploiters” during yesterday’s hearing into proposed amendments to labour laws and business was told it “is living on a different planet” if it did not understand the vulnerability of people employed part-time or by labour brokers.
Following a relatively easy first day on Tuesday when representatives of business were given free rein to present their concerns about the proposed amendments and the adverse effect they would have on employment, yesterday ANC members of the portfolio committee on labour hit back, accusing business of being out of touch with the majority of the country.

An executive from retail group Mr Price said that management at her group “does not see part-time employees as vulnerable” and that forcing employers to treat part-time employees equal to full-timers would lead to fewer people being employed.

ANC MP Lusizo Makhubela-Mashele countered that if the retail companies did not understand the vulnerability suffered by workers “I’d say you’re living on a different planet”. She added: “The reason we are here considering amendments is because of the outcry ‘out there’, we need to tighten the laws.”

Earlier ANC MP Andrew Williams described labour brokers as “super exploiters” and said he was unhappy with the implied threat that any increase in regulations governing brokers would result in an increase in lawlessness.

Williams was responding to a warning by Johnny Goldberg, who was presenting on behalf of the Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector, that attempts to further regulate the currently regulated segment of the labour market was likely to result in an increase in the size of the unregulated portion of that market.

In response to a comment by Johannes Mangoejane, the human resources director of Automotive Leather Company, that “our legislation encourages South African manufacturers to invest in other economies in an effort to compete internationally”, Williams said that implied threats by business that they would leave the country were unhelpful.

Much of yesterday’s submissions from business stressed the importance of labour brokers in promoting employment opportunities and enabling businesses to be flexible. Several studies were cited warning of the damage to employment that would result from increased legislation.
ANC MP Buti Manamela asked to see the source of these studies and stated: “I have a problem with the tone of these presentations and am concerned that their claims are left unchallenged.”

Makhubela-Mashele told yesterday’s hearing that the committee had held public hearings and had undertaken research across the country.
“About 99 percent of the people said they don’t want labour brokers.”

Williams said labour brokers in South Africa were “massively exploitative”, unlike their counterparts in Europe. “The unions are calling for them to be banned, the brokers are calling for less regulation and we’re stuck in the middle… which is where we should be.” He said the clients of labour brokers had to become more accountable.