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Young communists back Woolworths

Sep 06 2012 12:13 Sapa

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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 against whites.

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 on Tuesday.

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 labour market.

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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