Labour Committee Report on Workplace Discrimination

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Employment and Labour

05 May 2008
Chairperson: Mr T Anthony (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee continued its consideration of the Draft Report. During its consideration the Committee lamented the poor working conditions of many employees and the current insufficient levels of employment equity. It was of the view that human rights organisations were not doing sufficient work to deal with workplace related problems, especially the plight of farmworkers.

Meeting report

Committee Report on Workplace Discrimination
Ms Sindisiwe Mkhize, the newly appointed Committee Researcher, and Mr Ekhsaan Jawoodeen, Senior Parliamentary Researcher, briefed the Committee on the contentious issues in the Committee’s Draft Report on Workplace Discrimination. These included the areas of statistical auditing; employment equity in the labour market; current levels of violence in the workplace and a proper legal framework.

Discussion
The Chairperson raised concerns with insufficient time granted to the Committee to have provincial visits. The Committee’s Programme was congested he and suggested that the Committee find a way to slot in provincial visits.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) suggested that the Committee consider the real benefits of provincial visits. The Committee should also consider the Department ‘s reports on its functioning so as to get a broader understanding of what was being done, and the Committee should then take things from there. She asked the researchers how soon the Final Report would be made available

Mr Jawoodeen replied that the Draft Report was a 32 page document and would summarised into a single-paged executive summary which would list the contentious issues. It would be circulated to Members in due course.

Mr L Labuschagne (DA) commented that it would be preferable to replace the words “reverse discrimination” with “employment equity” throughout the Report. He added that some municipalities did not have adequate skills particularly in engineering

The Chairperson emphasized a need to look carefully at the Employment Equity Act and its implementation in the workplace. There was a need to identify the aspects of that Act that were proving problematic to implement.

Ms Rajbally stated that discrimination in the workplace and poor working conditions were serious and real problems, and had a significant negative effect on employment equity. Discrimination was prevalent and in-service training was rare in most cases

Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) was concerned about the attitudes of employers. He doubted whether disabled persons were well accommodated in the workplace. The Committee should deal with attitudes to address the imbalances in the workplace.

Mr W Spies (FF) urged the Committee not to forget that while it was the engine-room of the legislative process, it would not be possible to legislate for attitudes.

Secondly, the public service had reached a stage where demographics was at its centre. He asked if the Committee could take steps to protect minority groups or to involve minority groups in the employment equity strategy. Expertly qualified persons were being refused employment for employment positions reserved for affirmative action posts.

Thirdly, he argued that the intention of the Employment Equity Act was not to replace one person with another. Instead it was intended to develop people who were left behind under the previous dispensation.
 
Mr Mzondeki was of the view that sufficient progress has not yet been made in the public service as there was still an inadequate representation of the demographic. He emphasized that the purpose of the act was to address the imbalances created by the past and that would require some assistance from the Committee to police the current situation.

Mr E Mtshali (ANC) warned that employment equity or attitudes towards it should not be taken lightly. He informed the Committee of a black person currently employed by Parliament, holding a PhD in Physics, but could not get the job applied for at Eskom because of employment equity. He emphasized that it therefore did not revolve around ‘white or black’.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee could not legislate the attitudes but should rather identify all the aspects that contribute to such attitudes and deal with them accordingly

Mr Spies felt uncertain about such an approach and was concerned that it would demonise companies. He suggested that the Committee should rather look into its own attitude first before going to companies.

Ms Rajbally felt human right organizations were not playing a meaningful role to assist persons in the workplace, especially the plight of farmworkers.

Ms A Dreyer (DA) felt that not all farmers were treating their workers unfairly and urged the Committee Members not to generalized when raising farm-related issues. It was only a few farmers who were ill-treating their workers.

Mr Mzondeki replied that the Committee did not intend to paint every farmer in a bad light but intended to highlight that there were still those farmers who disobeyed the current laws and should be reprimanded and remedied.

The Chairperson, in closing, noted said the Final Draft Report would be made available at the next Committee meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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