By Donné Nieman, Sales Director Western Cape at Workforce Staffing
As South Africa begins to gear itself more strongly toward the provision of renewable energy, the various initiatives that began several years ago are finally gaining traction. Now, the key to getting these projects up and running in the shortest possible time frame is to ensure that the labour component – a critical element of any power project – is handled seamlessly to minimise friction and maximise output. Partnering with a Temporary Employment Services (TES) provider will enable energy companies to source and deploy skilled workers quickly, with the elasticity of a flexible workforce. The skills and experience of the TES provider will also help in dealing with Human Resources (HR) and Industrial Relations (IR) challenges. This will deliver the agile and compliant workforce needed to deliver on time and within budget.
Challenges of labour
The majority of renewable energy projects are being developed and deployed in smaller towns and more remote areas, which presents several challenges. Firstly, there is the local content requirement – since most of the materials and equipment used for renewables plants are imported. The local content must come from the labour component. However, if the project managers do not effectively engage with the relevant communities and get their buy-in, sourcing this labour will prove endlessly difficult.
This in itself can be challenging, as there are often different political affiliations, ethnicities, and groups, and it is important to draw labour equally across these groups to minimise friction. This can be tricky without prior experience and knowledge of various communities. There are also labour unions, labour laws and compliance requirements that need to be considered. Additionally, the administrative element of sourcing, vetting, hiring, onboarding, and managing hundreds or thousands of workers can be a significant burden.
Once they have been onboarded and medically cleared, contracts need to be drawn up correctly, workers need to be paid correctly and on time, grievances must be dealt with effectively and quickly, and more. If this is not done right, it can cause many problems down the line, from disgruntled workers to industrial and community action that can disrupt the build for years, resulting in financial losses and even fines for developers.
Getting it right from the outset
The process of managing large volumes of people and getting basic HR, IR, and compliance rights is hugely admin-intensive, and companies that are experts in renewable energy are not necessarily experts in staffing and labour. This is why it is important to partner with a reputable and experienced TES that specialises in supplying labour to project-based deliverables, including renewable energy.
Not only will the right TES partner take on all of the tasks around sourcing, vetting, hiring, contracting and ongoing HR and IR, but they will also help to minimise friction and ensure seamless labour to smooth the construction phase. This includes a community liaison to engage with relevant community members and motivate for buy-in and putting project labour agreements in place to ensure equitable and safe working conditions for all. A TES partner will also meet with relevant bargaining councils to ensure that all basic conditions are met, and the process is dealt with in terms of best practice.
As these projects get off the ground, the supply of labour will need to be performed quickly but remain fully compliant. There is also a component of community upliftment that needs to be woven into the entire project, including the use of local labour, local suppliers and skills development and transfer. The right TES partner will be able to supply and onboard the large volumes of labour required, even in remote areas, while ensuring that HR and IR compliance is taken care of, that communities and employees are happy, and that projects can go ahead on time without disruption from the perspective of labour relations.