n Law, Democracy & Development - People want to work, yet most have to labour : towards decent work in South African supply chains

Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1028-1053
  • E-ISSN: 2077-4907



This article is concerned with a particular category of informal workers, namely informal craft producers who access formal markets through intermediaries. Intermediaries - not-for-profit organisations as well as for-profit enterprises - source contracts, design products, negotiate contracts, train informal producers to make the products, purchase the raw materials and pay producers for products made. Most producers work on the intermediary's premises, are paid by the piece and are denied benefits and protection. An unreflective response invokes the suite of employment rights potentially triggered by the rebuttable presumptions contained in section 200A of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 ("LRA"). Producers earning below the stipulated minimum are likely to be able to invoke at least one of the seven rebuttable presumptions that they are employees, which then trigger employee rights and benefits contained in the LRA, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 ("BCEA") and other employment laws.

But, as this article will argue, establishing and enforcing producers' rights as employees is likely to result in the "employers", namely the intermediaries, restructuring their relationship with producers to fall outside the purview of section 200A. Alternatively, intermediaries may close down if they cannot afford the cost of providing the benefits and protections prescribed by employment laws. And, given the structural impediments for the vast majority of producers to participate in formal markets without intermediaries, either strategy on the part of intermediaries would render producers' livelihoods more precarious.

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