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Labour dept defends equity bill

Mar 02 2011 14:40 Sapa

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Cape Town - The labour department on Wednesday again strongly criticised trade union Solidarity for its claim that proposed amendments to the Equity Act could, if adopted, cost over a million coloured workers in the Western Cape their jobs.

Briefing members of parliament's labour and public enterprises select committee on provisions of the employment equity amendment bill, the department's chief director of labour relations Thembinkosi Mkalipi also suggested newspaper reporting on the matter was untrue.

"There's nothing (in the legislative proposal) that says coloured and Indian people in the Western Cape will lose their jobs. In fact... it gives flexibility to employers; it's their call, they'll have to decide what demographic they use.

"Nowhere in that proposal is there (mention of) removing regional (demographics) and leaving national behind. The statement by Solidarity is a lie. It's not true," he said.

The "demographics" referred to are the relative representation of so-called coloured workers in both the national and Western Cape work force, which, Mkalipi said, were 11.3% and 51.8% respectively.

Last month, Solidarity claimed that enforcing equity targets in terms of the national rather than the regional figure would cause massive unemployment among coloured workers in the province.

Mkalipi said while there appeared to be confusion about this matter, the department was in fact proposing "to remove both regional and national" figures.

He said employers in the province would be free to choose what demographic they wanted to use.

"If they're able to justify the fairness of that, they might be able to say: 'We are a company that is based only in the Western Cape; we believe to look at 52% is fair'.

"We're giving the labour market flexibility... but we're under attack."

The department had made numerous attempts to explain its proposals, but unfortunately "the truth does not sell newspapers".

Mkalipi called on the media - journalists at Wednesday's briefing heavily outnumbered the five committee members present - to publish a correct explanation of the proposed amendments.

"There is nowhere in the amendment, in the bill, nowhere, that we are taking away regional (demographics) and leaving national. Nowhere.

"There is nowhere in this bill that it will cause unemployment of 1.3 million people in the Western Cape," he said.
job creation  |  employment equity act  |  labour

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