/ 16 September 2008

New report sheds light on black employment

The decrease in black people in top and senior management positions is not a result of a skills shortage, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said on Tuesday.

Speaking after the annual 2007/08 Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) report was presented in Pretoria, Mdladlana said: ”Nobody will deny that there is a skills shortage in this country, but it should not be used as an excuse for not employing people.”

He said the majority of unemployed people have primary or secondary education.

”The bulk of the people who are unemployed are in that category,” he said, adding that affirmative action sought to create a more diverse and representative workplace.

”Why are we being blamed for taking the reconciliation route? For asking everybody to put their hands on the wheel?”

He said the sooner employers start complying with the Employment Equity Act, which provides for equal representation in the workplace, the sooner the law will become redundant.

The Act was developed to recognise the effects of apartheid and other discriminatory laws that allowed for unfair treatment in employment through discrimination.

‘Sophisticated racism’
CEE chairperson Jimmy Manyi said companies are using ”sophisticated racism” in their recruitment tactics and skills development programmes to try to get around the legislation. This is one of the factors responsible for the under-representation of black people.

Manyi cited an article in the September 11 edition of Finweek, which contained an advertisement placed by Nicole Katz of Envisage SA.

Katz’s ”No blacks please” hiring policy was depressing, he said. ”[It] rudely reminded us that 14 years into our democracy has not been nearly enough to convert some of the racial stereotypes. It is a really depressing situation. We really thought we were through this.”

He said job advertisements are often crafted to make the jobs inaccessible to the majority of unemployed, with previous experience highlighted as one of the prerequisites.

He said the training offered to black people is not developmental but merely ”keep me busy” training.

Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann — who sat in on the press briefing — said the report shows that affirmative action is only for the” elite” as it was compiled from data from top JSE-listed companies.

”Top management positions in JSE-listed companies represent only 0,06% of the country’s total workforce. It is disheartening to see that while the country’s economy is suffering because of skills shortages, the government department responsible for solving the problem is wasting its resources to compile useless reports.”

The CEE report shows that black people and people with disabilities are still ”grossly” under-represented in the workplace, while whites remain dominant. White men continue to dominate all three top levels and there has been a ”meteoric” rise in the number of white women in the workplace, said Manyi.

The report also finds that there is no need to blame the Employment Equity Act for the rate of emigration, and that a focus on African women in particular is urgently needed.

Manyi said the CEE recommends, among other things, that enforcement mechanisms be intensified, that a name-and-shame strategy be ”reignited” to encourage whistle-blowers and that employers should develop anti-racism policies.

”Sophisticated racism should not be tolerated, people must whistle-blow. Naming and shaming is coming, just as sure as day is to come after night,” he said.

He said the commission will publicly name companies that do not comply with legislation. This will be done if — after the Labour Department has visited and made suggestions — they have not taken corrective steps.

”If not, then you can expect to see your name in the newspaper,” he said. — Sapa