Minimum wage hotline shut down after flood of calls exhausts budget

A department of employment and labour compliance inspector interviews workers.
Image: Twitter/Department of Employment and Labour

After spending nearly R22m marketing a minimum wage whistle-blowing hotline, the department of employment and labour has run out of money to keep it going.

Replying to a parliamentary question from IFP MP Xolani Ngwezi, minister Thulas Nxesi said the Impimpa hotline had been suspended after becoming a victim of its own success.

After the USSD service logged 178,000 calls, the money to keep it going had run out, he said.

“It has unfortunately been temporarily put on hold as the department has received more numbers than anticipated which has put the department on pressure with regards to funding,” Nxesi told Ngwezi.

When Nxesi launched the Impimpa hotline in March, in partnership with Vodacom, he called it a “game-changer” in the government’s efforts to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation.

Anyone not being paid the minimum wage of R20.76 an hour could use it at no cost to report non-compliant employers, he said.

He identified the agricultural, hospitality and private security sectors as needing special attention. “We have heard about horrible things happening in these sectors. Worker rights are also human rights.”

Replying to Ngwezi’s question, Nxesi said the success of the hotline depended on marketing, so R21.62m was spent advertising it in print, on radio, TV and social media, and at taxi ranks and railway stations.

Department of employment and labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane said at the launch in March that anyone dialling the hotline number would be asked to identify the sector in which they worked and their province.

“The next step will be entering the employer’s address as per the system’s request and the department will respond by sending an inspector for inspection.”

The department’s chief director of collective bargaining, Thembinkosi Mkalipi, said inspectors would be deployed within 14 days of a complaint being lodged.

When TimesLIVE dialled the Impimpa hotline on Saturday, the response said: “The USSD string you have dialled does not exist.”

 

 

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