New Legal Dispensation for Freelancers on The Cards

New Legal Dispensation for Freelancers on The Cards

The South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) has been very active in debates around changes to the labour law. As we know, freelancers do not have the protection afforded to employees. In December, the Minister of Labour announced amendments to the legislation for the further protection of freelancers by the law. The details are still to be refined.

SAFREA asked Adrian Galley, Vice-Chair of SAGA, to give us an update. The entry below is written by Adrian.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has recognised that the world of work is changing and that “non-standard” forms of employment are becoming the norm. The ILO recognises freelancers as “atypical” workers who are readily exploited and discriminated against in a number of aspects, not least of all through restricted freedom of association and a denial of collective bargaining rights.

As freelancers are explicitly excluded from the labour legislation, the South African Guild of Actors was constituted 10 years ago as a Professional Guild, in order to protect the interests of freelance actors in particular and to lobby for legislative reform. It is partly due to these efforts that the Performers Protection Amendment Bill currently sits on the desk of the President alongside the Copyright Amendment Bill. (SAFREA members will recall the unstinting efforts of our colleague, the late Geoff Kirby, in championing copyright reform).

The preventable death of Odwa Shewni on a film set in the Drakensberg 18 months ago drew attention to the lack of safety regulations in the film industry. SAGA has repeatedly argued that unlike most workers, freelancers are excluded from meaningful participation in workplace safety matters (as provided for in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993).

On 11 December 2019 the Minister of Employment and Labour, Min Thembalani Nxesi issued a draft notice of intention to categorise “persons in the film and television” as “deemed employees” under certain aspects of labour legislation. Among others, these include the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997, the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1990.

While this draft notice in the Government Gazette has come about primarily as a result of engagements by SAGA, we believe it has broader implications for the entire “gig economy.” SAGA’s mandate is to advocate for the rights of actors, but we urge freelancers in other fields to take the opportunity to push for reforms to extend beyond the film and television industries to include all atypical workers. The deadline for written input is 29 January 2020.