Millions of workers in South Africa have to get by on extremely low wages and with no social security. Our partner on the ground, the Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO) helps workers employed under precarious conditions.
Rich country, exploited workers
South Africa is an industrialised country with a natural resource endowment, productive agricultural sector and huge cultural wealth. Yet regular workers do not benefit from this – rather they are often exploited as ‘labour broker workers’.
The CWAO was founded in the industrial area of Johannesburg in 2011. It provides legal advice to workers on temporary and precarious contracts. The CWAO organises weekly gatherings at the association’s offices or online via Zoom.
The gatherings offer workers an opportunity to discuss their problems and organise themselves. The CWAO premises is an important social meeting point for them. The advisory centre is open to everyone and also provides childcare. Often the discussion in the consultations revolves around unfair dismissal, wage dumping or companies’ failure to pay social security contributions.
With a Gini index of 61, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world.
Successful court rulings
In total, 80% of the cases that CWAO pursues in the courts are ruled in favour of the worker. CWAO has also been involved in legal cases that have been taken to the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
A precedent from 2018 led to a change in the labour law – now, workers on temporary contracts can demand permanent positions with better wages and greater legal certainty. An example of the impact of this is the case of employees at a Ferrero SA chocolate factory; until 2018, 257 of the 354 workers were employed on temporary contracts, some of them for a period of up to ten years. Following the court ruling, the workers obtained a permanent employment contract. Yet the fight for labour rights continues, because many contracts are ‘zero hours contracts’ that do not guarantee a sufficient income.
CWAO has since inspired numerous other legal advisory centres around South Africa. Its online handbook outlines the most important labour law provisions and rulings and enables workers throughout the country to benefit from CWAO’s knowledge.
Support workers in South Africa
With your donation you will be supporting the fight of workers in South Africa employed under precarious conditions.