Labour brokerage (brokerage) is the practice of facilitating the contractual relationship between employer and employee. This enables the employer to cut human resource management costs by up to 30%. Whilst this practice facilitates employment in these hard times, it also tends to subject workers to what may be termed indecent work, cutting down their compensation by up to 70% and reducing them to commodities. Labour brokers (brokers) are rewarded close to 30% of the employers HR budget.
Brokers, like other employers sometimes violate labour standards. There is no ambiguity on the fact that brokers are employers of the workers they provide to their clients. Employees often take the brokers to CMAC and to the Industrial Court. In some cases brokers win the cases in other cases they lose. Swazi cases that have indirectly addressed the issue of brokerage include the following: Nedbank v SUFIAW ICA Case No. 11/06, Ncobile Mildred Nxumalo v Gundane and Sons CMAC Award SWMB 22/12, John Zibuse Dlamini v Distel IC Case 2/11, GAWUSA v. NDZ Consulting CMAC Award SWMZ 599/11.
The legality of labor brokerage in Swaziland is highly controversial. On the one extreme, some call for a total ban on brokers; on the other some call for self-regulation of the industry. There is also a middle ground that brokers should be regulated by the Government. This debate has allegedly led unilateral suspension of brokerage permits, making tendering for business difficult for the brokers.
Employers are of the view that brokers help them to focus on their core business and thereby run profitable companies. They also see brokers as agents that close the Human Resource Management Capacity gaps within the world of work. Forced to cancel their contracts with brokers, some employers would prefer to fully mechanize their operations.
Some employers advertise jobs, conduct interviews and then hand over the employees so recruited to sign contracts with brokers, leaving some employees frustrated in the process. Frustrated with brokers, some employers terminate the services of brokers and revert to direct employment.
Some employees employed by brokers tend to have no job descriptions. Others do not undergo performance appraisal. Some such employees are clear that their supervisors are the clients of the Brokers who are often represented by broker representatives stationed in the Employer’s premises. Problems of non-payment of terminal benefits sometimes arise when employees are transferred to sign contracts from brokers to Employers and vice versa.
Employees employed by brokers sometimes earn three times less than employees who do the same jobs that they do who are not employed through brokers. In some cases they do the same job for the same employer for salaries that differ by 70%.
Brokers provide a wide range of terms including permanent employment, open ended contracts, contracts of 1 to 10 years, permanent part-time contracts and others and casual and seasonal engagements. Employees employed through brokers are sometime jointly supervised by the Employer and the Brokers; in other cases, the employees in some cases supervision done by their clients. Some brokers work jointly with their clients on security, health and Safety issues. Others are open to negotiating with unions and Works Councils on the terms and conditions of their employees. In the worst case scenario brokers unilaterally reduce staff salaries by up to 30%, adjust conditions of service such as overtime reduction and make deductions such as funeral scheme contributions of an average of E50 per employee.
Some brokers fail to make Insurance and SNPF Remittances to up to 4 years. Others fail to provide uniforms to their employees despite the fact that their clients provide them with cash for this purpose. Leave management is also problematic with some brokers.
There is a need for in-depth research on brokerage in Swaziland. It would however appear that even if such a study were not done, the findings and conclusions would be no different from those made in Namibia and South Africa studies.