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Union goes to court over affirmative action

May 21 2012 16:43 Sapa

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Cape Town - Trade union Solidarity filed papers in the Labour Court in Cape Town on Monday in a battle over affirmative action in the correctional services department.

It seeks an order to compel the department to promote five employees and to have its affirmative action plan declared unlawful.

Solidarity contends that the policy denies white, and especially coloured, employees in the Western Cape the chance of being appointed and promoted.

"The department's plan stipulates that coloured South Africans are to constitute only 8.8 percent of employees in correctional services, while coloured South Africans make up some 53 percent of the economically active population of this province," deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann said.

He said the department's policy of absolute representation was unfair, irrational, and unlawful.

Hermann said he believed the lawsuit would be the most extensive case yet in the country, as it would affect not only the department, but all affirmative action policies in the civil service.

The policy apparently stipulated that regions had to bring their affirmative action plans in line with the national order.

"We are convinced that no legislation in South Africa permits this type of social engineering," he said.

"The department's plan sets an absolute ceiling over white, Indian, and coloured employees, establishes quotas, and ignores service delivery and skills."

"None of this is permitted by the Employment Equity Act or the Constitution of South Africa... Affirmative action has evolved into a race counting and has lost its remedial character."

The union was acting on behalf of Pieter Davids, Christopher February, Andre Jonkers, Linda-Jean Fortuin, and Geonita Baartman, who had apparently been passed over for appointment or promotion on the basis of affirmative action.

The department said in April the allegations of deliberate discrimination and marginalisation of coloured employees were without merit and devoid of the truth.

It said at the time that it was applying national government's policy of representation and that the Western Cape was no exception.

"The department of correctional services welcomes and looks forward to the judiciary's interpretation of the Employment Equity Act with regard to proportional representivity of all South Africans in the workplace in line with the national government policy."

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