Johannesburg - Amid calls for a boycott of retailer Woolworths Holdings [JSE:WHL], it responded on Sunday with a prominent advertisement in Sunday newspapers, defending its employment policy.
Woolworths did employ white people, contrary to media reports stating otherwise, its said in the advertisement, published in the City Press, Rapport and Sunday Times newspapers.
"Over the past few days, many things have been said about our recruitment practises - specifically, that we don't employ white people. That is simply not true.
"Woolworths does employ white people. We employ women and men of all races - white, black, coloured, Indian, as well as people with disabilities, and we will continue to do so."
Trade union Solidarity began a campaign against the retailer on Wednesday to get it to retract job advertisements it believed discriminated against whites.
Solidarity had sent Woolworths a letter on Tuesday demanding that advertisements exclusively open to "African blacks" or "Africans, coloureds and Indians", be modified so people of all races could be considered.
General secretary Dirk Hermann said the Woolworths' advertisements constituted unfair race discrimination.
In the advertisement on Sunday, Woolworths said there were certain areas of its business which were seriously under represented.
It was in these areas that Woolworths was looking for candidates from certain groups.
"Because like all of South Africa's major companies, we're committed to transformation," it said in the advertisement.
Woolworths is also embroiled in another labour controversy over contracts.
On August 27, it said no retrenchments were taking place after it was reported that 593 employees faced early retirement or retrenchment if they did not sign new contracts.
However, the company said it was merely seeking to transfer about 3% of its staff on old contracts to a new system requiring them to work weekends.
If staff did not want to work under the new contract, they could leave with a voluntary severance payment, or take early retirement if they qualified.
It said about 80% of the affected employees had accepted one of the voluntary options proposed, while 1% had not.
The SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union, which said the offer was to the detriment of workers' rights, said 177 workers were being retrenched.