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 CEE bemoans lack of transformation in the workplace

Media Release: Department of Labour: 25 October 2011

The current dismal employment equity (EE) figures are a reflection of a tinge of racism that is ingrained in the workplace in South Africa, Chairperson of the Commission of Employment Equity (CEE), Mpho Nkeli told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Labour in Cape Town today (Tuesday).

Nkeli told the committee that there was a lack of will to transform the organizations. She said the reasons advanced by corporate SA for the dismal EE figures were that there was a lack of skilled blacks. Nkeli argued that over the past 10 years the numbers of black graduates in South Africa have tripled. 

“To say black graduates do not have skills is not enough. Where have the black graduates who qualified before 1994 gone? We need to hire and train them. Skilling people is about taking risks. South Africa with its strong mining sector developed over the years is now able to export engineers in the field. Why can’t we do the same in other fields? Asked Nkeli.

The CEE is a statutory body that advices the minister of Labour on EE Act. Their boards include eight members from the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), a constellation of various stakeholders such as business, labour, government and community constituency.

The Commission recently released its 11thannual report 2010/11, which showed that Top Management and Senior Management positions were still dominated by White people in South Africa while Black people were stuck in the lower rungs in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, in comparison to their economically active population (EAP). In terms of the report Blacks account for 73, 6%, compared to Whites who account for 1, 6%, Coloureds 11, 0% and Indians 3, 2%.

In 2010/11 report the best performing sectors were community, social and government. While the worst performing sectors were retail and motor trade and repair service; manufacturing; and wholesale, trade, commercial agents and allied services.

Department of Labour director of Employment Equity Ntsoaki Mamashela said the Director-General Review on labour has shown that there was no commitment from top management of corporate South Africa to address the prevailing inequities in the workplace.

“Most companies we have reviewed have no equity plans. It is strange that whereas there are targets for profits, none seem to exist to address equity. There seems to be commitment to keep more blacks at lower rung. There are no specific plans, but instead we find wishful statements of intent.”

“To make matters worse some companies submit thumb-sucked reports prepared by consultants. If there was a will and commitment to implementation of equity, we could easily see results within three years,” she said.

Mamashela said black people at unskilled and semi-skilled levels were over-represented and she hoped that they do not get stuck at that level forever.

The CEE lamented the current one percent representation of people with disabilities in the economy, saying there has also been a shift in the goal posts. The Commission said there was a two percent target set by government to be achieved in 2005, this was not met and the target was shifted to 2010, and was also not achieved - the target has now been moved to 2015.

The Commission also said disabled people were not treated as core to the business, “but as a side issue that irritates”.

Department of Labour deputy-director of policy development for EE, Niresh Singh told the committee that even in booming economic times the disabled were last in the queue for consideration when it comes to employment opportunities.

Nkeli said the disabled were treated as an unnecessary economic cost to production. She said the discrimination suffered by disabled was a mirror of societal attitude against them in which they are shunned, “they go to separate schools, are expected to be provided with special gadgets and this perpetuates their oppression. We need to get used to working with disabled people”.

Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Labour, D. Kganare called on legislatures and employers to treat the disabled as an investment rather than an economic burden.

Kganare warned companies that were thumb-sucking employment equity figures, saying their conduct was tantamount to committing fraud. He said this behaviour could no longer be allowed to continue as submission of EE reports was law of the country.  

Acting chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Labour Eric Nyekemba cautioned specialist career training institutions that were acting as gate keepers to drive out black people. He said their behaviour translates to defeating the ends of laws.

“When we implement laws we are told we frighten investors. South Africa is not a ‘normal’ society. As legislatures we need to call for tough sanctions to ensure implementation of legislation. Service delivery cannot be limited to squatter camps. Work places also need to deliver. They should be arenas for skilled development,” said Nyekemba.

Nyekemba called for a coordinated work effort between the Department of Labour, with the Department of Trade and Industry, Higher Education and Economic Planning to ensure that the objectives of EE are realised.

Issued by the Department of Labour: 25 October 2011 

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