Job-sav­ing project in cri­sis

SA busi­ness drags its feet on join­ing R2.4bn state scheme

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BUSINESS - VUYO MABANDLA

THE re­trench­ment of thou­sands of work­ers in dif­fer­ent sec­tors last year may have been partly due to the lack of in­volve­ment of busi­nesses in the gov­ern­ment’s R2.4 bil­lion lay-off scheme aimed at pre­vent­ing job losses, an­a­lysts said.

Last year’s eco­nomic re­ces­sion saw nearly a mil­lion peo­ple laid off from work as com­pa­nies strug­gled fi­nan­cially.

Azar Jam­mine, chief econ­o­mist at Econometrix, sug­gested this week that a lack of buy-in may have in­creased the num­ber of re­trench­ments across the coun­try.

As a re­sult of the lack of par­tic­i­pa­tion by some com­pa­nies, he said, there had been an un­der­spend­ing in the scheme, which raised con­cerns about “a lack of skills in the pub­lic sec­tor to process applications”.

The fund was set up by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in Septem­ber in a bid to pre­vent fur­ther job losses.

It al­lowed work­ers threat­ened with re­trench­ment to un­dergo spe­cial ad­vanced train­ing in their field while still work­ing for their orig­i­nal com­pa­nies, and earn­ing a sub­sidised salary of R6 239.

Terms and con­di­tions for the deals and other agree­ments be­tween em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees were to be fa­cil­i­tated by the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion (CCMA).

Work­ers would be trained for three months with a rel­e­vant sec­tor ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing au­thor­ity (Seta), with an op­tion to ex­tend their train­ing for a an­other three months.

How­ever, it is not clear how many em­ploy­ees or their com­pa­nies have joined the scheme, but it ap­pears there has been a poor up­take.

The gov­ern­ment ex­pected to dis­trib­ute the bud­get of R2.4bn by this April.

Ear­lier this week Jimmy Manyi, the depart­ment of labour’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral, re­vealed that so far only R10 mil­lion had been spent on train­ing pro­grammes.

He said he had dis­cov­ered this just this week when in­quir­ing about the scheme’s progress, and said the scheme was in an “emer­gency state”.

“We will have to meet up with the CCMA and go back to the draw­ing board.”

Jam­mine said some busi­nesses may have cho­sen to stay away from the scheme.

“A lot (of them) of­ten feel jit­tery when it comes to cer­tain pro­pos­als. Com­pa­nies are some­times afraid of get­ting caught up in a bu­reau­cratic mat­ter. They some­times en­ter schemes and later find them­selves in an un­de­sir­able sit­u­a­tion.”

One of the causes to the un­der­spend­ing could be the “lack of man­age­rial skills in the pub­lic sec­tor”, said Jam­mine.

But the di­rec­tor of the CCMA, Nerine Khan, dis­puted this.

“Our pro­cesses are speedy and ef­fi­cient as al­ways; we are not at fault. There has been a lot of in­ter­est by cor­po­rates in the scheme and many have been saved from the bad eco- nomic ef­fects as a re­sult.”

She agreed, how­ever, that some com­pa­nies feared a bu­reau­cratic “night­mare”, al­though she could not say this was what was keep­ing them from buy­ing into the project.

“When some busi­nesses find out about the fund, they ex­press ini­tial in­ter­est and then back away.”

She could not say whether the com­pa­nies’ lack of in­ter­est in the scheme had af­fected the 959 000 job losses last year.

PIC­TURE: LEON NI­CHOLAS

JIT­TERS: Azar Jam­mine says many busi­nesses fear be­ing caught up in bu­reau­cracy.

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