Johannesburg - The Young Communist League (YCL) voiced support on Thursday
for retail group Woolworths Holdings [JSE:WHL], which is under fire for
allegedly discriminating against whites when filling vacancies.
The YCL lauded Woolworths' efforts to comply with the
Employment Equity Act and labour laws to ensure its labour force represented
the country's demographics.
"We call on Woolworths to urgently implement these
measures and further call on... all... unions in the retail sector to support
the initiatives," said spokesman Buti Manamela.
"We further call on Woolworths to make public their
employment demographics, and hope that no white person currently employed will
lose a job as a result of the company's compliance with labour laws."
Trade union Solidarity announced a campaign on Wednesday to
force Woolworths to retract job advertisements it believed discriminated
Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann said the
company had failed to retract advertisements for posts for which only black
candidates would be considered, despite the union raising concerns about this
The campaign: "Woolworse: Making a
differentiation", would be driven by social media and would include
protest messages to Woolworths CEO Ian Moir.
Manamela said his organisation was not and would never be
anti-white, but white people currently benefited more than other races from the
If not reversed, this situation would fuel racial tensions.
"We will tirelessly work to counter (Solidarity's)
calls for a boycott of Woolworths goods and stores," Manamela said.
Law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr said employers should
exercise caution when banning candidates from certain racial groups from
employment or promotion.
"The facts of each vacancy should be considered in
determining whether the conduct of the employer will be fair," said labour
lawyer Johan Botes.
If candidates were excluded this could amount to unfair
discrimination, unless the employer could satisfy a court that it had acted
fairly and in accordance with its employment equity plan.
Employers who had already reached their employment equity
targets but continued to discriminate against non-designated groups, would have
difficulty in relying on the employment equity defence contained in the
Employment Equity Act.
"However, an employer that, for instance, incurs huge
expense in training candidates for later appointment into categories of
employment where there is significant over-representation of white males, may
find the court more sympathetic where it excludes white males up-front from
participating in the training programme or recruitment," he said.
Employers should tread carefully when creating absolute
barriers for entry for non-designated racial groups, as this could contravene
the Employment Equity Act.
The retailer's chief operating officer Sam Ngumeni has
defended the job adverts.
"Jobs are only designated and preference indicated
where there is a need to address representation and ensure the diversity of our
teams," he said on Wednesday.
"Other than that, all other jobs are open to applicants
from all demographic groups."
All Woolworths employment practices were in line with the
Employment Equity Act, Ngumeni said.
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