Mildred Oliphant appears to have turned the tide at what used to be one of the worst performing departments into an effective organisation, the main priority of which is to deliver services to all. Under her leadership the department has posted a clean bill of health for the second year running, reversing the record of six successive years of negative audit findings.
The department has attributed the auditor general`s positive finding to it dealing successfully with financial management, accountability and supply-chain management processes. The department has also managed to reduce the high level of vacancies to 7.2%.
Its inspectorate performance has improved drastically in the past two years since Oliphant was appointed minister. During the past year, the department has managed to carry out inspections at 139 150 workplaces throughout South Africa. Also, 35 327 notices were issued to ensure compliance with labour laws and 1 023 prohibition notices were served on companies not complying with labour laws. Her hands-on approach ensured that Oliphant led some of these blitzes in eight provinces in the agriculture sector.
The recent wildcat strikes in the farming and mining sectors appears to have been beyond Oliphant`s control, but she worked tirelessly with stakeholders to find solutions. But she sometimes appears to lack urgency, often arriving late to volatile situations such as the strikes. However, this does not mean she is not paying attention. For example, her department is reviewing the sectorial determination for farm workers. It has also held discussions with stakeholders around the facilitation process that may lead to a centralised bargaining arrangement for the mining sector, which may avoid another Marikana tragedy in the future.
Oliphant has also been working hard to push for the promulgation of the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill, which are aimed at enhancing protection to cover temporary, part-time and fixed-contract workers. It has been estimated that the number of atypical employees grew from 1.5-million to 3.89-million between 2000 and 2010.