News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Wednesday December 12th 2018

Refugees: business and unions agree

Some unions were urging employers engaged in cutbacks to retrench refugees before retrenching South African employees said the Cape Chamber of Commerce (CCC) today.

Yet such urging discriminated against people based on their nationality, which violated a number of the country’s laws.

Speaking as a panelist at a Refugee Rights conference to mark World Refugee Day, attorney and CCC President Michael Bagraim said unions should stop targeting refugees when it came to retrenchments at workplace.

The conference, which focused on the issue of refugees’ access to employment, was also attended by Cosatu and the City of Cape’s Economic Development Department.

Bagraim said refugees, even if they had no received documentation from the Department of Home Affairs, had the right, guaranteed by the Refugee Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees, to seek employment.

In the event that employers discriminate against them, they could turn to the courts for redress.

He urged refuges to “go ahead and find employment” even if they had not received their documentation from Home Affairs.

He took a swipe at the Department of Home Affairs for their failure to timely assist refugees with documentation, saying the department made it difficult for people to access asylum seeker and refugee permits.

But he cautioned refugees not to lie to employers by claiming they were South Africans.

Responding to Bagraim, Cosatu’s provincial organizer and educator Mike Louw said it was the first time he heard of unions targeting refugees when it came to retrenchments.

Such a practice “was unacceptable”, said Louw, and his organisation would want to know which unions were involved in doing that.

He also called on the CCC to ensure that its members were not engaged in exploiting refugees by under-paying them as many refugees were exploited, especially in the hospitality, security and domestic sectors.

Louw stressed that refugees had the right to association and thus could join trade unions if they chose to.

Louw said Cosatu will do more to ensure that refugees join unions and conceded a lot still needs to be done within unions themselves to accommodate foreigners.

While the country faced massive unemployment, he said this was an opportunity to utilise the skills that refugees brought into the country.

City of Cape Town’s head for local economic development Hanief Tiseker said local spaza owners should learn more from foreigners in order to grow the industry.

While most of them ventured into this business because of unemployment, foreigners did so with the belief that they were engaging in viable entrepreneurial initiatives, he said.

He urged locals and foreigners to work together and grow a competitive and innovative retail sector. — Francis Hweshe

 

 

Tags: Cape Chamber of Commerce, Cosatu, Hanief Tiseker, Michale Bagraim, Mike Louw, UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees, World Refugee Day

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