Committee Report Workplace Discrimination Hearings: Consideration & Impact of State of the Nation Address

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Employment and Labour

11 February 2008
Chairperson: Ms O Kasienyane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Parliamentary Researcher presented the Report on the Committee’s hearings into workplace discrimination. During the discussion on the Report Members raised questions regarding the precise scope of the hearings and subsequent ambit of the Report. It was recommended, amongst other things, that NEDLAC and the Equity Courts be granted more clout to enforce compliance with legislation and that stakeholders such as Parliament and Eskom be called before the Committee to explain their current equity condition. The Report would be considered further.

Meeting report

Committee Report on Workplace Discrimination Hearings
Ms Joy Watson, Parliamentary Researcher, presented the findings with regard to workplace discrimination. Several organizations were identified, researched and various recommendations were arrived at. From the onset she stated the researchers did not have the capacity to tackle any political questions and any that arose were solely the responsibility of the Committee to deal with.

The general findings were that very little had been done in a bid to eradicate discrimination in the workplace. She highlighted the fact that many organizations did not have policies or procedures in place to deal with workplace discrimination. In addition to this organizational structures fuelled and exacerbated the situation and created an environment for discrimination to occur.

The other reason for failure to comply with legislation was that the Commission for Employment Equity has not followed the mandate in Section 29 of its enabling legislation thus fuelling the discrimination. In addition to this, the low fines imposed for failure to comply with the law fuelled discrimination as organizations would rather pay the fines than to follow the law. It was suggested that more stringent punitive measures were needed.

Race, gender, disability and HIV/AIDS were highlighted as the key grounds for discrimination. A major problem in the area of workplace discrimination was the phenomenon of casual labour. This was because workers were not protected by the law and were subject to abuse.

It was recommended that government departments and the private sector comply with employment equity legislation. The report also highlighted that there should be a balance between harder punitive measures, and other methods of self regulation should be implemented to ensure compliance. The process of going through the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to the Labour Court and was a lengthy and costly one. It was recommend that the powers of the CCMA be extended as an enforcement mechanism. In essence it was held that the employment equity was about restoring people’s dignity.

Discussion
Ms A Dreyer (DA) stated her reservations about the report as the points of reference were the Commission for Employment Equity Annual Report 2006/07 and its presentation to the Committee on that Report. Thus anonymous complaints could not form the basis of the Committee’s Report on the hearings.

Ms Watson strongly defended the integrity of the Report. She stated that no one method was used and no submission overshadowed the views of other submissions. Referencing the Commission’s Annual Report only was due to time constraints and rushing at the end of the process. The reasons for the anonymous complaints needed to be investigated.

Mr B Mkongi (ANC) highlighted the importance of provincial visits and visiting labour centres as being pivotal to eradicating workplace discrimination on a ground level. He insisted that Parliament should report to the Committee for the sake of transparency.

He focused on four areas that needed to be addressed: the first being compliance with Employment Equity legislation and whether focus should be placed on less punitive measures. Secondly, NEDLAC needed to be given ‘sharper teeth’. Thirdly the controversial issue of ‘designated groups’ needed to be addressed with current focus being placed on white youths and women. To date they have benefited more than any other group and if they wanted to be considered in future they should, in his opinion, waive their inheritance in terms of affirmative action. Finally he reiterated that the CCMA and the Equity Courts needed more authority.

Mr L Labuschangne (ANC) was not impressed at all and clearly stated that the Committee must use its power to summon Parliament, Eskom and any other stake holder that needed to be questioned regarding the matter of workplace discrimination and its results and repercussions. He felt that summoning Eskom would show, practically, the implications of merely satisfying quotas. He questioned what the trend would be once the required targets have been satisfied or exceeded, and whether discrimination in that regard would be justified as fair. In his view a system that was fair and equitable when redressing the ills of Apartheid would focus on the conditions of the people and not the colour of their skins, as there were poor white South Africans as well.

The questions posed by both Mr Mkongi and Mr L Labuschangne were not answered. However they would be dealt with at the follow up meeting to be held on 19 February 2008.

Further Comments
It was decided that the discussion on the Impact of the Sate of the Nation Address on the Department of Labour would be dealt with on the 19 February 2008 as well.

The meeting was adjourned.

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