The government needs to be decisive and ensure employers comply with the Employment Equity Act

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has noted the Department of Employment and Labour’s lamentations about the lack of compliance by employers, in particular the banking and financial sector, with the Employment Equity Act.  The federation is calling on the government to move away from condemnations and be decisive to ensure employers comply with the letter and spirit of the Employment Equity Act.

COSATU, as a progressive trade union movement believes that the workplace should reflect the broad demographics of South Africa and we support the Employment Equity Act and its Amendment Act recently signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

The Act empowers the Department’s labour inspectors to issue compliance orders and to fine employers who routinely fail to show any progress in meeting their employment equity targets.  The Department needs to move from a place of lamentation to one of action and deploy its inspectors to workplaces to deal with recalcitrant employers who still believe this is the 1950s.

The Amendment Act empowers the Minister for Employment and Labour to set specific targets for different economic sectors like banking, or specific categories, e.g. senior management, where employers show little interest in employment equity.  The Amendment Act provides the necessary nuance and pragmatism that a demographically and regionally diverse society like South Africa requires. 

This provides recognition of the reality that the demographics of South Africa’s various regions differ widely and thus employment equity targets need to take that into account the demographics of Limpopo are different from the Western Cape.

The Amendment Act requires employers doing business with the state to follow the Employment Equity and National Minimum Wage Acts.  With public procurement set at an annual R1 trillion, this is a powerful incentive for businesses to comply with our labour laws. 

Treasury’s Chief Procurement Office and the Supply Chain Management Units across the various state institutions and State-Owned Enterprises need to move with speed to ensure they comply with this requirement.  The Department of Employment and Labour needs to ensure it can provide the required compliance certificates efficiently to companies.

COSATU hears the protestations from the Black Business Council that the Amendment Act maintains the existing reporting exemptions for SMMEs.  Whilst there is some validity in their arguments, the long-term solution to ensuring employment equity at the workplace is to grow the economy and create jobs.  This requires reliable and affordable electricity, an efficient railway network and ports, functioning municipalities that provide basic services, SOEs that grow not suffocate the economy, the corruption that leads to the guilty being sentenced to prison and providing affordable capital for SMMEs. 

It would help to hear the BBC speak with equal gusto against fronting where some businesspersons show little shame in standing in for white-owned companies and more importantly where many are little more than importers of cheap goods from overseas. 

The PPE scandals of 2020 where persons who had never produced any product in their lives were overnight rewarded with multi-million Rand contracts at inflated prices and then promptly imported shoddy goods from China.  We need to see the BBC actively championing local manufacturers who employ ordinary South Africans, especially in rural areas and townships.

Issued by COSATU.

For further information please contact: – Matthew Parks Parliamentary Coordinator

Cell: 082 785 0687