BuaNews, 07 November 2002, Mdladlana Condemns Forced HIV Testing On Workers

Labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana says it is inhumane and unfair for employers to demand that domestic workers undergo HIV/AIDS tests and fire them after they have tested positive.

The minister said his department had discovered cases of forced HIV testing in the Western Cape and would take the strongest possible action against such employers.

He was addressing the Joint Monitoring Committee on the improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women on issues around the domestic worker sectoral determination and skills development, in Parliament, Cape Town, today.

He said he expected employers to adhere to the minimum wage of domestic workers.

According to the Domestic Worker Sectoral Determination (DWSD) launched in August, domestic workers working for more than 27 hours or more per week in some of the more affluent municipalities such as Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, must be paid a monthly salary of R800.

Their counterparts in the semi-urban and rural areas could claim R650, ten percent of which would be deducted for loans offered by their employer and good accommodation.

The other permissible deduction is for the statutory Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

Those working for 27 hours or less per week in the upmarket areas will take home R614.25 while their counterparts in townships and rural regions will pocket R498.42.

Conditions applicable to the new policy for the at least 1.2 million domestic workers in the country came into effect from 1 November.

'The minimum wage is the absolute minimum that an employer can legally pay a domestic worker. However, if an employer is currently paying more than the minimum there is no way that he or she can use the minimum wage as an excuse to reduce wages.'

The minister warned against the reduction of wages, saying they would constitute an unfair labour practice.

'The domestic worker can report the employer to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).'

According to Mr Mdladlana, the domestic worker sectoral determination prescribes that employers must increase domestic workers' wages by at least eight percent on an annual basis.

'This applies to both those employers who are paying a minimum wage and hose who are paying more.'

He stressed that the department was committed to the protection of vulnerable workers.

'The domestic worker sectoral determination and the farm worker determination, which will be announced shortly, are expressions of this commitment,' he said.

The minister also discussed the importance of skills development, emphasising that the department's priority was the alignment of skills to the needs of labour market.

'Skills development is central to the fight against unemployment and underemployment and the department has developed a strategy that is on track to deliver much needed skills throughout the country.'