The South African government has given SA’s corporate bodies a six months grace period to comply with the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) plans or face any punishment meted out on them.
This warning was made on Monday by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant after the CEE reported that whites males still dominate the highest ranks of the corporate hierarchy.
The CEE released its annual report for 2015 where it revealed that employment equity compliance is moving at a very slow pace and that representation of whites at top management was 68.9%, more than six times their representation in the economically active population.
This was also the case for Indians, who at 8.6% of top management made up more than three times the size of the group’s economically active population.
“White people continue to receive preference over other race groups. Even when their contract of employment is terminated in one organisation, they are recruited back again at the same top management level in another organisation during the same period, which is an indication of opportunities afforded specifically to them at the expense of other race groups,” Oliphant said.
The minister went on to say that her department would begin implementing the penalty provisions in the Employment Equity Amendment Act, promulgated last year, if corporate bodies refuse to comply. “The objectives of the law and the “legitimate expectations” of the people were far from being achieved, she added.
Supporting the ministry’s decision, Black Business Council CEO Mohale Ralebitso reiterated the need for serious action, saying noncompliance and a lack of commitment by businesses had led to the slow pace of transformation.
While Ralebitso is urging the government to use procurement as an incentive to benefit compliant firms, Black Management Forum (BMF) president Mncane Mthunzi proposed that an employment equity tribunal be established along the lines of the Competition Tribunal to impose fines on non-compliant companies.
“This employment equity tribunal must be given powers and authority to dish out fines and penalties to companies that are not complying with the Employment Equity Act,” said Mthunzi.
The BMF said industry charter councils had to take responsibility for the lack of progress in implementing employment equity.
“The charter councils are saying nothing about it (employment equity). It’s about time that they must publicly pronounce or we must get rid of all these industry charter councils,” Mthunzi added.
Meanwhile, the DA’s spokesperson on labour, Ian Ollis, said the government could be able to achieve successful transformation and employment equity by encouraging small businesses instead of solely focusing on corporate to drive change at the top.
Giving a description of hoe this is effectively used in Cape Town and Western Cape Ollis said government contracts in these places, had been broken down into smaller parts, allowing black-owned companies to tender for contracts without the need for the requisite liquid
“As a result of that we’ve seen employment equity figures, in terms of businesses growing, increasing,” said Ollis.
On the Other hand, Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the labour federation was not surprised at the CEE’s latest statistics.
“Of late, what we’ve seen is that in industries where there are retrenchments, unions like Solidarity have been ensuring that as and when those retrenchments take place that the issue of employment equity (affirmative action) is not really considered,” said Pamla.