About 2000 Unisa staff members affected by the Labour Relation Amendment Act

The Labour Relations Amendment Act, which came in effect on 1 January, stipulate that temporary workers, or those employed through labour brokers for more than three months, doing the same work of a permanent employee, should have full-time contracts so as to enjoy all the benefits of a permanent employee.

As of 1 April, organisations will have to comply with new employment obligations which place limitations on the use of fixed-term (or temporary) contract employees who earn below R205 433.30 per annum.

The amendments to the Labour Relations Act (LRA) give protection to staff employed through Temporary Employment Services (TES) or labour brokers. In order for employers and labour brokers to come to terms with the amendments a three-month window period was granted, which lapsed on 31 March.

Boitumelo Senokoane, General Secretary of the Academic and Professional Staff Association, says that the amendments to LRA affected the jobs of an estimated 2000 staff members at Unisa.

Our understanding is they have been dismissed as specified under the amended section 198a. We understand that failure to renew their contracts to continue working constituted direct dismissal described as a new type of dismissal in the LRA.

According to Senokoane, some of the employees where called back and contracts were renewed after the association put pressure on UNISA through various media platforms.

Labour Law Expert Tony Healy elaborated on what the amendment Labour Relation Act entails and says that the Act is aimed at protecting employees who are abused in the name of temporary employment contracts.

Let me give an example. If you are a temporary employee and you have been employed with that particular employer for longer than three months on a temporary employment contract, if your employer can prove it as a genuine temporary contract, for example being employed to stand in for a pregnant woman who went on maternity leave for four months, then there’s is no need to replace her because clearly it’s a temporary assignment. If the employer cannot prove that it’s a genuine temporary contract, that individual would indeed need to be converted to a permanent staff member. The reason for that is that the government is saying too many employers appoint employees on renewed temporary contracts over time in permanent positions and that is considered to be unacceptable.

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