Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  23 Feb 2011

LABOUR: No Risk To 'Coloured' Jobs


Recent Western Cape Business News

Over the past few days certain trade unions and politicians have asserted that proposed changes to the Employment Equity Act will result in over a million “coloureds” in the Western Cape losing their jobs in order to be replaced by “black” workers who will relocate to the Western Cape for this purpose. 

These statements are without merit both in terms of our existing labour laws and the proposed changes to these laws.  No matter what interpretation is placed on the proposed amendments, it is incorrect to suggest that a million people, irrespective of race, will lose their jobs and have to relocate elsewhere, according to Bradley Conradie, a Cape based specialist labour lawyer. 

In terms of our law an employee may not be dismissed in order to implement affirmative action measures.  There is currently no proposal to change the law in this regard.  Any employee currently holding a position will therefore not be affected and there can be no talk of a mass exodus of “coloured” workers from workplaces in the Western Cape. 

Currently the Employment Equity Act states that national and regional demographics must be taken into account when the Department of Labour is assessing whether or not an employer is implementing affirmative action measures in their workplace.  In practice this has largely meant that in provinces such as the Western Cape the local demographics has informed affirmative action decisions.  It is now proposed that the Department of Labour may have regard to the demographic profile of the economically active population as a whole.  This change should not however be seen in isolation.  In assessing compliance, the department of Labour will also have to take into consideration factors such as the number of vacancies that an employer has, the employer’s staff turnover, reasonable steps taken by the employer to train suitably qualified people from designated groups and reasonable steps taken to implement an employment equity plan. 

The proposal therefore appears to be that the Department of Labour be given the discretion to have regard to the demographic profile of the economically active population as part of its overall assessment of compliance with employment equity.  This is very different to a proposed amendment which would see employers compelled to implement national demographics.

In any event it is still early days as this proposed amendment will probably be one of those which will be extensively debated by business, labour and government when it serves before the National Economic Development and Labour Council.  To the extent that the matter is not resolved in this forum then the courts may well be called upon to decide on its constitutionality.

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