Home South African Unions back new Employment Equity Act

Unions back new Employment Equity Act

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The Employment Equity Amendment Act, which aims to reflect South African demographics in all societal facets, including at the workplace, has received the backing of some of the country’s largest trade union federations who are calling on the government to fast-track its implementation.

In the face of court challenges, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has come to the defence of the Employment Equity Amendment Act. File picture: GCIS

THE EMPLOYMENT Equity Amendment Act, which aims to reflect South African demographics in all societal facets, including at the workplace, has received the backing of some of the country’s largest trade union federations who are calling on the government to fast-rack its implementation.

The public had until Monday to make submissions after Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi published a notice inviting submissions on the setting of the proposed sector Employment Equity targets.

Cosatu parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks said they welcomed the act and urged the department of labour to make haste in implementing it.

“The Employment Equity Amendment (EEA) Act provides badly-needed interventions to strengthen government’s ability to hold employers accountable for their role and failures to adhere to the Employment Equity Act. Cosatu urges the Department of Employment and Labour to move with speed to ensure the promulgation and implementation of these long- overdue provisions.

“Organised business must do its bit to ensure employers are aware of these new requirements. Cosatu will work with its affiliates, and endeavour to empower shop stewards and workers on this progressive amendment act,” said Parks.

Despite facing court challenges, Nxesi has come to the defence of the Employment Equity Amendment Act.

The amended legislation was assented to by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April, but its opponents, especially the DA and Solidarity, have threatened to take legal action to stop it.

The new law sets economic sectoral targets and prescribes demographic targets for employers with more than 50 employees.

It also seeks to empower the minister to regulate sector employment targets after consultation with sector stakeholders and advice from the Employment Equity Commission.

The regulations provide for the setting of proposed five-year sector targets for the various economic sectors in terms of population groups and gender for the four upper-occupational levels. These are top management, senior management, professionally qualified and skilled levels and for employees with disabilities.

The minister would also be empowered to issue compliance certificates to employers in good standing with the act and to require such certificates for companies applying for government contracts.

These economic sectors include agriculture, forestry and fishing; manufacturing; mining and quarrying; construction; financial and insurance activities; transportation and storage; information and communication; and water supply among others.

Responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Michael Cardo, Nxesi said the Constitution instructed the government to redress past imbalances.

This after Cardo asked if the minister would furnish him with the specific steps taken to validate the methodology used to set the racial benchmarks under the act.

He also enquired whether there was a formal peer review process involving independent experts in labour, economics and statistical modelling, and whether he would furnish him with the feedback received from these experts.

Nxesi said Cardo should kindly find within himself the ability to understand that the current democratic government was formulating laws, having been instructed by the Constitution.

“These are laws that are all aimed at correcting all that was wrong in our terrible and horrible past, before our democratic breakthrough. Our Constitution instructs us to redress the imbalances of the past,” he said.

Nxesi said that there was no bill before Parliament.

“The Employment Equity Amendment Act was deliberated on by all Members of Parliament including you. It aims at ensuring the reflection of South African demographics in all societal facets including at the workplace.

“The apartheid racist South Africa empowered only a single racial group. The current government has the task of developing, uplifting, empowering and heartening all who live in this country.”

Cardo has previously stated that the targets proposed by the government in the amended legislation were not faceless numbers but represented an impending social and economic catastrophe.

Saftu said it welcomed and accepted the act as South Africa lagged behind in terms of employment equity.

“From the beginning of affirmative action, white organisations like the DA had opposed it on the basis that it was unfair, but we always felt that in any society transitioning from an era of racial segregation, government had to intervene to ensure there is redress because the system was skewed in favour of the white minority.

“The black majority were not going to get proper redress and advantage in the new era if proper measures were not put in place to redress the inequalities,” said Saftu spokesperson Trevor Shaku.

The United National Transport Union (Untu), said: “Untu believes in and supports equal opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of race or gender. We support initiatives that are aimed at addressing the historically disadvantaged groups of people as long as such initiatives are not to the detriment of any other group/s of people.”

Solidarity, which has also threatened legal action, said 85,000 coloured employees would have to be made redundant in Gauteng and no coloured person may be appointed in Limpopo.

“Nationally, approximately one in four coloured employees will have to be replaced in order to meet the Minister of Labour’s sectoral targets which are indicated in the proposed employment regulations in terms of the new race law. This is one of the shocking facts from a report that Solidarity and the Cape Forum announced today in Cape Town. Furthermore, coloured employees working in the agricultural sector in the Western Cape will have to be reduced, and many coloured women in the Western Cape will have to be replaced.”

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