/ 24 August 2009

Commission slams progress of employment equity

An amendment to the Employment Equality Act to penalise companies not abiding by racial diversification in the workplace was recommended to the Labour Department on Monday.

Commission for Employment Equality (CEE) chair Jimmy Manyi said the government’s approach of persuasion was not having the desired effect, and black and coloured people were bearing the brunt of it.

Releasing the CEE 2008/09 report in Pretoria, Manyi said it would be recommended that laws governing the Employment Equity Act be revised as they did not deal harshly enough with offenders.

”This law [as it is currently] is very forgiving … the department and the commission are going to take a much less conciliatory view,” he said.

Currently companies were given timeframes to comply with if they had been found lacking. However, an immediate response such as prosecution had become necessary, he said.

”There are going to be a lot more prosecutions now going on. Those who are not playing ball we will name and shame.”

Fines for non-compliance also needed to be reconsidered as they currently amounted to ”petty cash”. Manyi said the amounts needed to be escalated to 10% of a company’s turnover, which was similar to penalties handed down by the Competition Commission.

Manyi said that while progress was taking place, it was at a slow pace. Out of the more than 100 JSE-listed companies randomly selected for evaluation, there were ”no shining examples”.

There was a ”shortage of recognition of black people as competent”. This was also the case for people with disabilities.

Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said the figures showed a ”disturbing trend” and agreed that prosecution in the Labour Court should be enforced immediately.

”Unfortunately there are people you have to drag to heaven because they are heading for danger.”

Mdladlana said the longer it took to implement employment equity in the workplace, the more negative the impact on growth and stability of democracy.

Calls to remove legislation dealing with the lack of racial diversity — a legacy of apartheid — was tantamount to ”throwing away the Constitution”.

He said previously disadvantaged people would soon get frustrated with extending an olive branch to people who had formerly oppressed them during the violent apartheid era.

”Comply with the law instead of manufacturing a revolution that is not going to take us anywhere … You better touch our hand whilst we are still giving it,” he said.

”I want to warn them that the revolution will be a revolution of all black people.

”I am as angry as I was. I have not calmed down a bit. If we want to unite the people of this country this is the route to go,” he said.

Manyi said observations had also shown ”with a lot of anxiety” that black and coloured people were being given senior titles but were in fact ”window dressing”.

Government sector vs private sector
The report showed that white men represented 61% of top management, enjoyed 48% of all recruitment and made up 45% of all employees promoted to this level.

At the top management level black men represented 10%, enjoyed 13% of all recruitment and made up 13% of all employees promoted to this level.

In this category, Indian men represented 5% and coloured men 4%, while white women represented 12%, black women just less than 4%, and Indian and coloured women each just more than 1%.

For the first time the study also looked at how top management in the government sector compared with the private sector.

In government 61% were black, 12% coloured, 5% Indian, 21% white and under 1% foreigners.

In the private sector white people had the highest representation with 74%, followed by black people with 13%, Indians with just less than 6%, coloureds with 5% and foreigners accounting for about 3%.

Manyi said generally speaking government was closer to achieving the proportional economical active race representation targets.

”Government is trampling the private sector at every turn,” he said, adding, however, that much still needed to be done.

Representation of people with disabilities at all levels and in both private and public sectors dropped from 1% over the previous years to 0,7%.

Manyi said in recruitment and promotions the trend showed that white people were generally favoured.

”The job market is pro-white people … we don’t have the facts to back up the story that employment equity is anti-white.”

He said companies would no longer be able to get away with filing reports that employees were being sent on workshop training.

”We want training that is purposeful … the only training that we are going to accept from now on is training that is aimed at closing the skills gap,” Manyi said.