South Africa has seen a steady increase of casual labourers, contract workers and others working in the informal sector. CWAO, the Casual Workers Advice Office, supports them in their struggle to defend their rights.
Although officially 'only' 25%, South Africa's actual unemployment rate is closer to 40. Many of those who do work are being exploited. Ever increasing numbers of people have become so-called 'labour broker workers', who do the same jobs as permanent staff, but on far worse terms. Their wages are much lower, they have no social security and they can be dismissed without notice.
CWAO, the Casual Workers Advice Office, was founded in 2011 in the industrialised East Rand of Johannesburg, South Africa's economic powerhouse. CWAO provides advice and support to precarious workers to encourage and support the emergence of organising among them.
Open six days a week, CWAO supports workers such as street sweepers employed by labour brokers, postal workers striking for permanent jobs and 'temporary' employees of a fast-food chain, who were fired without notice after 12 years of working there. Most of the casual workers seek help following unlawful dismissals, low wages or because employers did not pay social security contributions. CWAO's track record is impressive: some 80% of all cases are resolved in favour of the workers.
Each year some 4,000 workers contact CWAO. A free workplace rights advice hotline (with guaranteed 48-hour call-back) set up in 2013. Calls even come in from beyond the Greater Johannesburg area. CWAO has also created an e-compilation of South Africa's most important labour laws. Other advisory services can obtain the e-handbook free of charge.