Employment Equity: hearings

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Labour

13 May 2003
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Meeting report

LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 MAY 2003
EMPLOYMENT EQUITY: PUBLIC HEARINGS

Chairperson:
Mr M S Manie (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Solidarity Union submission
Disabled People of South Africa submission

Community Constituency (NEDLAC) submission (Appendix 1)
Commission on Gender Equality submission
Business South Africa submission

SUMMARY
The Commission on Gender Equality, Solidarity Union, Community Constituency (NEDLAC), the Disabled People of South Africa and Business South Africa made submissions on employment equity. She further pointed out that the way in which gender is defined in the workplace often reflects gender inequality and stereotyping. They suggested that companies should give a report to the Commission as to how they have implemented the Act so to allow the Commission to monitor the implementation. The Solidarity Union suggested that equality as an accord between the non-designated groups and the designated groups is crucial for South Africa. They argued for a balance between the legitimate rights of the designated groups and that of the non-designated groups. The Community Constituency of NEDLAC suggested that Government, Labour and Business need to develop a clear protocol to ensure the participation of designated groups in strategic projects. DPSA argued that by providing reasonable accommodation the business can also benefit by employing persons with disabilities. BSA suggested that SETA’s need to play a stronger advisory role as far as training and developing programmes are concerned.

MINUTES
Commission on Gender Equality
submission
Ms Themba Kgasi explained that the Commission is a Chapter 9 institution and that its purpose is to promote, protect and monitor employment equity. The Commission had conducted research in 1999, targeting the private sector. A Conference had been held in 2000, where the commission looked at some of the findings of the 1999 research. She mentioned a few of these outcomes:
-One must be able to identify that although standards for employment equity are set in the Employment Equity Act of 1998, those standards are not clear, as there are no clear provisions on implementation.
-Guidelines, based on CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against women) should be developed.

Ms Kgasi stated that the Employment Equity Act requires policies to be developed by companies. There is an obvious need for gender policies. She further pointed out that the way in which gender is defined in the workplace often reflects gender inequality and stereotyping. The Commission hopes that these gender policies will promote a generic approach and thus there is a need to define the role of the Chief Executive and Senior management.

She indicated that one must not look pass the human resource needs and the future of companies. She further noted that one must also look at the competency of people required. Ms Themba Kgasi stated that companies need to be aware of gender equity in their recruitment programmes. Jobs should be created in terms of its context and value and skills should be assessed in an objective manner.

Ms Kgasi stated that there is also a need to develop sexual harassment policies in the workplace. She noted that the Commission also looked at external factors, which may influence companies not to implement the Employment Equity Act, as companies needs to act in the best interest to their clients.

Ms Kgasi said that companies should give a report to the Commission as to how they have implemented the Act so to allow the Commission to monitor the implementation.

Solidarity Union submission
Mr Dirk Hermann expressed his shock at the statistics presented of top and senior management. It was exactly top and senior management who used the previous dispensation to protect themselves.

Mr Hermann noted that the negative consequences of racism need to be removed and that it is thus a challenge for South Africa to apply affirmative action. One has to be careful not to implement affirmative action in such a way as to create new forms of imbalances. He stated that the Solidarity Union has followed a positive approach as far as the Employment Equity Act is concerned and cooperated fully in the drafting of the Act.

Mr Hermann looked at the effect of affirmative action on non-designated groups. These groups feel alienated. Mr Hermann explained to the Committee that alienation finds expression in the following:
-Powerlessness. This can lead to resistance, as non-designated groups are no longer committed.
-Meaninglessness, meaning that the natural capabilities of people are not being developed.
-Whites fear that affirmative action will become a permanent phenomena, which results in immigration.
–Normlessness. People’s behaviour becomes difficult to foresee.
-Isolation – people become estranged from their community’s culture. Scepticism may lead to isolation.
–Self-Alienation. This is the inevitable end result if a person experiences (a), (b), (c) and (d).
Mr Hermann stated that affirmative action is a reality, as South Africa needed to rectify the imbalances of the past.

Mr Hermann made the following recommendations as possible solutions:
-Equality as an accord between the non-designated groups and the designated groups is crucial for South Africa. He indicated that there needs to be some form of balance between the legitimate rights of the designated groups and that of the non-designated groups. The result of an accord will be that the non-designated group will get involved in eliminating past imbalances without creating new imbalance.
The that the purpose of the accord would be to:
-Enhance democracy in South Africa.
-Ensure full participation of the none designated groups.
-Give content to the values contained in the constitution.

He suggested that there could be a separate code of good practice or an amendment of the current one. This would be a way of preventing litigation, as it is too lengthy and does not enhance good relationships. Therefore there is a need for political action.

Community Constituency of NEDLAC submission
Ms Petronella Linders’ presentation was based on how skills development and employment equity is related. She further based her presentation on the effect of affirmative action on women, the youth and disabled people.

She recognized the South African government’s involvement in creating legislation to rectify past imbalances. She noted that the Employment Equity is a vehicle to ensure that designated groups are not discriminated against and that reasonable accommodation is provided.

The challenge is that there is no clear plan as to how the target of 4% in the Skills Development Act will be met. She emphasized that reasonable accommodation should be made for people with disabilities. She also acknowledged fears of employers to employ women and disabilities.

Ms Linders made the following recommendations:
-Government, Labour and Business need to review the strategic projects launched by the Minister relating to skills development.
-A clear strategy, relating to disabled and young people in learnerships, needs to be developed.
-Government, Labour and Business needs to develop a clear protocol.
–This Protocol would ensure the participation of designated groups in strategic projects.
-Training projects for employees and employers should also be implemented by trade unions.
-Technical assistance guidelines are to be completed
–Programmes which will encourage employers to provide reasonable accommodation should be put in place.
–The Department of Labour is to analyse staff capacity to employ disabled persons.

Disabled People South Africa
submission
The presenter indicated that people with disabilities are seen as sick by employers and therefore the attitude of employers needs to be changed. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Employment provides that everybody has the right to work. People with disabilities can contribute to society’s economy if reasonably accommodated and skilled. Many obstacles are still faced by persons with disabilities. Data indicated that people with disabilities occupy mostly junior positions. People should be assessed by way of their skills and knowledge, which they possess rather than to implement affirmative action. By providing reasonable accommodation the business can also benefit by employing persons with disabilities. It is important, within the disability sector to find answers together.

Business South Africa (BSA) submission
Mr Vick Van Vuuren based his presentation on the effect of affirmative action on the business sector. Business supports the implementation of the Employment Equity Act. Mr Van Vuuren indicated that there is a need to recognize companies which have successfully implemented the Affirmative Action Plan rather than concentrating on the negative aspects. Business South Africa does not condone non-compliance with the Employment Equity Act. He further noted that SETA’s need to play a stronger advisory role as far as training and developing programmes are concerned. Therefore, one has to build on the successes. He stated that sector charters can play an enhancing role within the Employment Equity Act but there needs to be more encouragement. Mr Van Vuuren stressed that BSA does not believe in isolation.

Discussion
Mr M J Mzondeki (ANC) said there is a need to accept that the majority of people in the employment sector is black. He was of the opinion that the Solidarity Union’s presentation implies that affirmative action is reverse discrimination and will therefore never really completely eliminate the imbalances of the past.

Ms T E Lishiva (ANC) asked what the finding of the Commission on Gender Equality is. Is the Commission aware of the required training and resources for females?

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) stated that all decent-minded persons will recognize government’s effort to uplift previously disadvantaged people. He agreed with BSA, that affirmative action is not job reservation. Mr Moonsamy indicated that the purpose of the Employment Equity Act is to bring about changes for the previously disadvantaged and that the Solidarity Union wants to cling to the past.

Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) agreed that most women have been disadvantaged but asked how closely the Commission on Gender Equality has worked with the Department of Labour and other relevant structures in their research.

The Chairperson asked BSA what they are doing with regard to employers who employ less that 50 employees and what awareness programmes have been embarked on to ensure the implementation of the Employment Equity Act by companies.

Ms Themba Kgasi, CGE stated that the community had workshops with different municipalities and that gender training has thus taken place. The report was launched in February. She further noted that the Commission has worked closely with the Employment Equity Commission.

Mr Hermann, Solidarity union, stated that he expected the negative reaction of the idea of the Affirmative Action Accord. Affirmative action is necessary but should focus on equality rather that racial transformation but there should be a balancing factor.

Mr Van Vuuren (BSA) explained to the Committee that it is difficult to explain to non-designated groups why affirmative action is necessary.

The Chairperson stated that a false impression is created that people lose their jobs because of the colour of their skin. It the responsibility of stakeholders to correct this false impression of affirmative action. The plans and reports were submitted without employers looking at the policies of the various organizations to ensure compliance with the requirements of the plan. It appears that workers do not fully understand their rights in order take up employment equity related issues. He expressed his concern and disapproval that organized labour has not participated and that the picture will not be complete without the participation of organized labour. Organized business has to ensure that awareness is raised amongst the workforce. The role of the SETA’s has been amplified by several speakers and thus has to be further discussed by the Department of Labour.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix 1

SUBMISSION ON EMPLOYMENT EQUITY TO PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON LABOUR

We recognize that government has done much to create an enabling environment for job creation through the legislative framework, which gives rights and responsibilities to both employers and employees. Further to this government has also set up implementing agencies such as the National Skills Authority (NSA), SETAs and the provincial skills forums.

The intentions of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) are to develop a lifelong culture of learning, build skills in the formal economy, improve skills development on small businesses and focused assistance to new job seekers so as to enable them to access opportunities whilst making a positive contribution to the economy. But what does the NSDS mean to a deafblind person in Worcecster, a quad in Aliwal North, a person with epilepsy in Barberton, youth in Kakamas or a women in deep rural Guyani? It is an unhappy truth that despite the National Skills Fund, which is intended to advance the development of community constituents with regards to skilling them for employment, there is little progress achieved to date for these people and as such, the following shortcomings hamper our full participation and needs attention:

Challenge

Recommendation

Responsible Party

Although the target for disability is 4% there is no clear plan and milestones to ensure that disabled persons would be visible in the area of scarce skills.

Review 18 strategic projects for evaluation against the target of 4%.

Develop a clear strategy on the participation of people with disabilities in the learnership campaign with regard to selection and recruitment, support to the learners in terms of reasonable accommodation and after care support to the employer and the employee.

 

Review of the capacity building program that was led by the Dept of Labour and Communities last year as the process is currently on hold due to internal changes within the Dept of Labour.

Government

Business

The provincial skills forums are still structured in such a way so as to exclude community participation.

Develop a protocol that spells out the composition of these forums.

Government

Business

Labour

Although the domestic workers project is underway, the involvement of NGOs and women’s movements are not recognized by SETAs as they are dominated by organized business and organized labour with no involvement of communities reps.

Develop a protocol that spells out the composition of these forums.

Government

Business

Labour

Reasonable accommodation for disabled persons is separated from the skills programme, which makes it difficult for them to reap the benefits from the strategy.

A public Education programme similar to the one that was launched for the Social Plan needs to be developed for the Code of Good Practice On Employment of Persons With Disabilities.

A training programme for employees and employers with particular emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of both parties needs to be designed in partnership with organizations of people with disabilities and disability specific employment agencies.

The Technical Assistance Guidelines (TAG) needs to be finalised to ensure that employers has all the tools they need to implement the EEA.

Government

Incentives made available by the dept. of Labour to benefit people with disabilities are not used by employers because of the existing myths.

The Wage Subsidy Scheme needs to be reviewed and changed to a support programme for reasonable accommodation.

Government

SETA’s have very few if any disabled employees.

SETA’s personnel policies and practices should be reviewed to see if it complies with EE legislation.

Government

A lack of capacity within the dept. of Labour to implement their disability specific programmes such as the Bursary Scheme, the Sheltered Employment and the Placement programs.

Analyse staff component in the employment services directorate in terms of having the appropriate skills for the job.

Analyse the impact of these programmes.

Government

Public Works Programme – very few people with disabilities benefit from these programmes due to its labour intensive nature.

Managers of the PWP are not being creative in their plans to include people with disabilities.

Conduct a detailed audit on the impact of this programme on the lives of the intended beneficiaries, especially people with disabilities.

Government

 

CONCLUSION

These are some of the critical blockages, areas for intervention and priority that the community constituency (women and the disability sectors) have identified that if not addressed at this early stage would ultimately undermine our efforts of job creation in the long run.

 

 

 

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