Coloureds facing employment purge in WCape - Solidarity

EEA amendment would limit group to 1 in 10 jobs in province

Act set to pursue new, unrealistic race targets, Solidarity cautions: Almost 1 million coloureds "too many" in Western Cape

Almost 80%, 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 were the proposed amendment to the Employment Equity Act to be implemented according to the letter of the law. Should the amendment be approved it would also mean that more than 300 000 Indians in KwaZulu-Natal would have to leave this province in order for race targets to be met.

The trade union Solidarity believes the proposed amendment would necessitate the migration between provinces of millions of economically active South Africans to reflect the national demographics of the economically active population (EAP) in each province respectively. Such a reflection of the national EAP in each province would imply that, regardless of regional demographics, each workplace throughout the country would have to have a 73,7% representation of black employees, 10,9% representation of coloured, 3,2% representation of Indian and a 12,2% representation of white employees.

Meanwhile the newspaper Rapport today reports that Cosatu's Tony Ehrenreich says that their findings are "more or less the same" and that Cosatu will take on the issue in Nedlac. Furthermore, the constitutional law expert from the University of Cape Town, Prof. Pierre de Vos, is also quoted on the issue. He reckons that it may be argued that the proposed amendments are unconstitutional. The DA's Ian Ollis also said to Rapport that this party will turn to the courts if need be.

Dr Dirk Hermann, deputy general secretary of Solidarity, is of the opinion that these amendments to the act could amount to a massive and unfeasible social engineering programme, for in terms of the amendment the Act would no longer recognise the EAP of a region, but only national demographics the economically active population. He emphasises that there are many other issues in the amendment bills that must also be revisited.

According to the Western Cape's current demographics approximately 29,1% of the EAP is black, 54,8% coloured, 0,5% Indian and 15,6% white. It would require massive shifts in the population to reflect the national demography. It would mean that the current coloured and white EAP would have to decrease by 80% and 22% respectively, while the black and Indian EAP would have to increase by 154% and 538% respectively to reflect the national EAP demographic profile.

"In Limpopo an increase of at least 10 000% in economically active coloured persons would be needed, while more than 268 600 economically active black persons would have to move from that province. These absurd figures clearly show that in its current form the amendment bill is unfeasible and imposes unrealistic demands," Hermann said.

These findings form part of a comprehensive report by the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI) on proposed amendments to labour legislation. The report indicates what population moves would be required between provinces in order to reflect the national EAP demographic profile in each province.

According to Hermann the amendments to the Employment Equity Act imply that only the national EAP demographic profile would be used as benchmark for demographic representation to the exclusion of other benchmarks that previously could be used. Current benchmarks include whether a person from the designated groups is available for appointment or promotion, and also take into account current and expected future economical and financial factors for the specific sector.

"What it means in essence is that irrespective of factors such as local demography and skilled employee shortages, an employer will have to comply with the national EAP profile and will not be able to make any appointment that falls outside this," Hermann says. "The proposals also invalidate the concept of ‘black' as defined in the Employment Equity Act. In reality, coloured and Indian South Africans are thus, as it were, written out of the designated group."

Solidarity's legal team has already begun to draw 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 explains.

Statement issued by Dirk Hermann, Deputy general secretary Solidarity, February 20 2011

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