Jobs of coloured workers at risk

Posted February 21, 2011

By Zara Nicholson

Resistance is growing to proposed amendments to the Employment Equity Act, which could disadvantage the Western Cape, with up to one million coloured workers losing their jobs.

A Western Cape labour analyst on Sunday described the implications as “disastrous”, and unions plan to tackle the issue through Nedlac.

One of the province’s biggest trade unions, the SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union, has warned that speculation about the impact could ignite racial tension.

The amendments, if passed, will legislate that affirmative action should focus on national demographics, not provincial population profiles.

In a statement on Sunday, Dirk Hermann, Solidarity’s deputy general secretary, said the amendments set “unrealistic race targets” and would cause almost one million coloureds to lose their jobs.

The statement said: “Almost 80 percent, that is one million, of all economically active coloured South Africans in the Western Cape will have to earn a living in another province, while over one million black South Africans would have to relocate to this province.”

Solidarity believes that if the national demographics of the economically active population (EAP) were reflected in each province, each workplace throughout the country would have a 73.7 percent representation of black employees, 10.9 percent coloured, 3.2 percent Indian and 12.2 percent white employees.

According to the Western Cape’s current EAP demographics, 29.1 percent are black, 54.8 percent are coloured, 0.5 percent Indian and 15.6 percent white.

“It would require massive shifts in the population … The current coloured and white EAP would have to decrease by 80 percent and 22 percent respectively, while the black and Indian EAP would have to increase by 154 percent and 538 percent respectively,” the statement read.

The findings form part of a report by the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI).

Solidarity’s legal team is drawing up documentation to institute court action should the amendments be passed.

“The principle of representation as it is currently reflected in the proposed amendment bill is not in accordance with the Constitution of South Africa and, therefore, it cannot be accepted,” Hermann said.

Terry Bell, an expert on labour issues and Business Report columnist, said as the proposed amendments stood it was heading for a “potential disaster”. “It would be disastrous because you can’t apply national demographics in a country that was ruled by apartheid, where people from certain race groups were forced to move to certain parts of the country.”

DA spokesman on labour, Ian Ollis, agreed with Solidarity’s calculations and warned that they may have to take the matter to court “because there are constitutional infringements”.

Former Western Cape premier, Peter Marais, criticised the proposals and a few weeks ago demanded to meet President Jacob Zuma.

Meanwhile, Sactwu general secretary Andrè Kriel has warned of being “alarmist” and disagreed with Solidarity that amendments would see the majority of coloured workers axed. “We must be very careful not to ignite race hatred with stories like this which are untrue,” he said. – Cape Times

Posted on 222.iol.co.za

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