Disabled People of South Africa
Written submission to the Portfolio Committee on Labour on the Unemployment Insurance Bill [B3-2001]
20 March 2001
Disabled People South Africa (DPSA), is a non-racial, non-sexist, cross-disability, national disability rights movement. Disabled people are amongst South Africa's poorest people and unemployment insurance has been of great importance to many workers with disabilities and families of disabled people. With regards to the above-mentioned Bill, DPSA makes the following inputs and proposed amendments.
1. Section 3. (I) c.
We believe that the exclusion of National and Provincial spheres of government and its employees from the scope of this Act may be justifiable in light of the Unemployment Insurance Fund's financial predicament but that it goes against the spirit of equality and justice as espoused in the Constitution and the Labour Relations Act. Therefore it would be preferable that they are included in this Act's scope.
2.Section 6.(l) b, i.
People receiving disability grants are excluded from entitlement to unemployment insurance. However disability grants are to compensate people with disabilities specifically for those disabilities. Workers who earn below a certain threshold and are disabled are entitled to receive disability grants in addition to their salaries and at the same time contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, (UIF). Thus they are entitled to continue to receive both their disability grants and unemployment insurance when unemployed. If they are not then why are their contributions to the UIF being deducted from their salaries?
Most disabled people are highly impoverished and at the same time face the additional burdens of the high costs of assistive devices needed to help them participate in society to their full potential. For example a quadriplegic would face the problem of the costs of a motorised wheelchair, which can easily cost R20, 000. There is a need to delink the issue of disability grants from unemployment insurance. Disability grants are to compensate disabled people through out their lives for their disabilities and its subsequent challenges. Unemployment insurance is to compensate workers who have lost their jobs. An unemployed worker with disabilities has more needs and challenges than a non-disabled worker. To deny unemployed workers with disabilities the right to both the disability grant and unemployment insurance would be to crudely say that the problems they face are not different to non-disabled workers or pensioners and that they do not deserve special assistance. Therefore DPSA believes that the words 'disability grant’ should be removed from Section 6. (1) b.
3. Section 40. (2) c
Three members are made provision for to represent organisations of community and development interests in the Development Chamber in NEDLAC. In NEDLAC's Development Chamber the community organisations and development interests consist of representatives from five key sectors; namely: disabled persons, youth, women, rural areas and civics. It is important for community organisations and development interests to have a strong voice in the Unemployment Insurance Board as representatives of the public. It would thus be preferable if their representation could be expanded from three to five, based along the sectoral representation of NEDLAC's Development Chamber, namely; disabled persons, youth, women, rural areas and civics.
4. General Issues
South Africa’s unemployment insurance system is an important poverty alleviation programme and is impressive for a country like South Africa, burdened by massive levels of inequalities and impoverishment. The Unemployment Insurance Bill is an important part of the government’s efforts to ensure a better life for all. DPSA extends its support to this Bill. However it is important that the Bill is brought into reality in its entirety. Delays in the payment of benefits to recipients, slow processing of outstanding payments (i.e. not all of the amounts in arrears being paid at once), disrespectful treatment given by civil servants to enquiring members of the public and other general inefficiencies in the Department of Labour; undermine the noble intentions of Unemployment Insurance Fund; the Minister of Labour, Mr. MMS Mdladlana; and potentially this Bill. It would also be beneficial if the Department could develop programmes which would help unemployment insurance recipients to acquire new skills and find alternative employment.