Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said that the department welcomes the decision of the Durban Specialised Criminal Court to issue Chen Lu Fragrances CC with a heavy fine for breaching labour laws.
This comes after 14 of its employees were locked in the building to ensure that each worker produces at least 500 surgical face masks each day.
Nxesi said this after the trial had concluded.
The minister forewarned business owners that companies should never think that they can operate in South Africa and not comply with the labour laws that have been designed to protect both workers and employers.
“Particularly during this time of COVID-19, it is important for the workers to stand up for their rights and report abuse as workers in this company did.
“Our Inspection and Enforcement Services does a good service but working hand in hand with workers, it is possible to end workplace exploitation and we appeal to workers to report abusive behaviour,” said Minister Nxesi.
Nxesi continued by saying that the ministry is aware that there are companies that have taken advantage of the emergency nature of work during the pandemic and are using this as an excuse to exploit employees.
Additionally, the Chinese Consulate has ordered the company to donate masks worth R200 000 to the South African Police Service and the office of the KZN Premier.
The Minister strongly condemned the company’s actions, saying that it was in direct conflict with the COVID-19 regulations.
“They did not even provide for physical distancing and thus put the lives of many workers and their extended families at risk.
“Every day the Compensation Fund is receiving claims of workers who have contracted the virus for being exposed at work. A total of 1215 claims have been received so far and it is actions of companies like this that expose workers to fatal dangers of the pandemic,” said Minister Nxesi.
He concluded by saying that at least 98 claims have been received from KZN adding that “it is our plea that companies need to do right by their employees who remain their most valuable asset and not expose them unnecessarily to danger."