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Woolworths douses racial fires

Sep 04 2012 12:55 Fadia Salie

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Cape Town - White workers at Woolworths Holdings [JSE:WHL] came to the retailer's defence on Tuesday, tweeting in their individual capacities that racist employment claims are “baseless” and “100% untrue”.

SA promo magazine reported on Monday that Woolworths was caught out for not wanting to hire any white staff.

The report referred to a blog posted on Sunday by Justin Harrison, in which he claimed the clothes and food retailer's advertising excluded whites in recruitment advertisements.

Harrison said in his blog he broke the story on social networks over the weekend, when Woolworths SA posted ads on its career site saying its jobs are open to African, coloured and Indian candidates only.

Harrison wrote in his follow-up blog that as a post-apartheid child, he is "neither politically motivated or (sic) inspired, however the increasing blatant racist economic policies that are very clearly exclusive of whites is starting to require a voice and some decisive action.

“Those whites who are still in South Africa stayed and signed up for a fully inclusive country, and just want to get on with it and build a South Africa that works for everyone.

"Woolworths SA is not alone in it’s (sic) policies, recent racist hiring policies events at SAA that also excludes whites highlights that government regulation has made it acceptable to exclude certain race groups under the guise of economic transformation,” he wrote.

The story sparked a small debate on Twitter, with Steve Hofmeyr tweeting: “Gonna be hard, but goodbye Woolies.”

Woolworths employee Denver Berman-Jacob tweeted rumours that Woolworths SA is not employing any white people is baseless and without merit. “I think I should know, I work here.”

Another worker and former Women24 editor Sam Wilson tweeted: “Guys, I’m white. I am currently interviewing white people. This @WOOLWORTHS_SA white racism thing because we comply with BEE? Weird.”

In another tweet Wilson said: "this just isn’t true”.

In several tweets Woolworth doused the racial fires, saying “the claims you’re hearing are completely untrue…. We can verify that it’s 100% untrue… We employ people of all races: black & white & every hue in between … Please RT” .
 
Harrison meanwhile claimed that Woolworths has since changed the advertisement “in a bid to cover up the blatant racist ads”.

Woolworths on Tuesday hit back, saying Over the past few days it has been accused of racist employment practices. “Woolworths strongly refutes these allegations.”

In a statement sent to Fin24, the retailer said the Employment Equity Act expects all South African companies with more than 50 employees “to plan our workforce by race, gender and disability.

"Our workforce is diverse and includes people of all races (white, black, coloured, Indian).”

Woolworths said that it has, like all South African companies, a role to play in transformation.

“For this reason, some positions (where there is under-representation) are (for) designated groups. The designated groups are Africans, coloureds, Indians, women and people with disability.

“It is not true that all positions are reserved for these designated groups. Woolworths employs people of all races.

“We appreciate the value diversity brings to our business and the need to contribute to levelling the playing fields for certain groups of South Africa's population. This is not a racist practice.”

Harrison wrote that Woolworths is clearly in a spin over how to deal with this issue, and they would do well to learn from South African Airways' mistake. The airline rejected applications by whites for its cadet pilot programme but lifted the ban.

Harrison called for a public apology and a “revert of hiring policies to be fully inclusive and based purely on experience and ability”.

Clint Masters tweeted: “This country thrives on racial feuds… black this, white that!”

 - Fin24

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