The new proposed amendments to the Employment Equity Act (EEA) will empower the Minister of Labour to issue regulations forcing companies to apply the national demographics in regions. Cabinet has given approval for the proposed amendments to the EEA to be submitted to parliament.
Mildred Oliphant, Minister of Labour, last week lauded Woolworths’s approach to affirmative action, while Solidarity maintains that the group’s approach amounts to unfair discrimination. Johan Kruger, spokesperson for Solidarity, says the minister jumped the gun when she commented on the issue of absolute racial representation before the process for public comment on the proposed amendments to the Act started. “It was clear from the minister’s remarks that she is in favour of the ideology of absolute racial representation, which raises concern over the content of regulations that the minister will issue should the amendments be adopted by parliament in their current form.”
Kruger says this ideology is neither feasible, nor constitutional and the trade union is already fighting it where it is applied in the public service at, among other places, the Department of Correctional Services and the South African Police Service. Kruger says the new proposed amendments will expand the Labour Minister’s power to impose absolute representation on employees in the state and the private sector.
“Subsections 2 and 3 of section 42 of the new bill empower the Labour Minister to issue regulations whereby any designated employer could be forced to make its labour force on every level and in every workplace a reflection of the national racial demographics.” Solidarity advised during the previous proposed amendments that these amendments could lead to employees being left with no choice but to move to other regions to find works. “The new amendments still empower the state to impose the national racial demographics, and disregard unique regional differences.”
Kruger says the current Act stipulates that several factors must be considered in determining an employer’s compliance with the Act. These factors include: the available pool of people with suitable qualifications; economic and financial factors; the sector in which the employer operates; the availability of vacancies; and the staff turnover. “In spite of sharp criticism of the previous bill’s identical proposals, the new bill still does away with these provisions and the factors that have not been discarded no longer necessarily have to be considered.” The new bill also proposes that the maximum fine for contravening the Act be increased from R900 000 to as much as 10% of an employer’s annual turnover. “This approach of heavier fines to impose the failed ideology of absolute racial representation is not the answer to problems relating to empowerment in South Africa,” says Kruger.
Solidarity will participate in the parliamentary process to ensure that errors in the proposed amendments to the Act are rectified.