Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant’s response to the presentation of the 11th Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) Annual Report, Room 153, Union Buildings
3 Aug 2011
Thank you Chairperson for the 11th CEE Annual Report and the presentation.
I want to express my disappointment at the progress we are making, particularly at the senior and top management levels. It is disturbing to note that black people accounted for approximately 86% of employees covered in the reports analysed, they only represent 16.9% at top management and 35.9% at the senior management level.
It is discomforting to notice that although the data reflects that we have made some significant progress in creating a critical mass of both black people and women at the professionally qualified level, these people seem to have reached a glass ceiling. Opportunities that arose as a result of staff movement in top and senior management levels continued to benefit the same groups that are already over-represented at those levels when compared to their demographics of the economically active population.
The data presented here today paints a bleak picture for Africans and Coloureds, in particular African women and people with disabilities whose representation stands at 0.8%. Clearly, this indicates pure resistance by the captains of industries in embracing change to create conducive working environments that are accommodative to all people irrespective of race, gender or disability.
It is important to highlight the fact that data indicates that white females and Indians amongst the designated groups have benefited from affirmative action. This negates the perceptions and debates going around that affirmative action is discriminatory. In fact, the data submitted by employers reconfirm that where there is a will and commitment by decision-makers in the labour market to implement affirmative action, this can be one of the effective tools or ways to address the imbalances and inequalities of the past.
It is thirteen years since the enactment of the Employment Equity Act; this gloomy picture presented here today is a call for drastic measures to be taken not only by the Government, but in partnership with organised business, organised labour and community as a whole. I urge all social partners to ask themselves this question:
What are we doing about it?
From Government’s side, in realising the slow progress in transforming the workplaces, the Department of Labour together with the Commission for Employment Equity, identified a need to amend the Act in order to close gaps identified and strengthen both the implementation and enforcement mechanisms of this Act.
The Amendment Bill currently tabled at NEDLAC for negotiation is critical as it is aimed at improving compliance to the Act, including amongst others:
Removing bottlenecks and streamlining the inspection and court referral processes;
Putting more of the onus on employers to prove compliance;
Promoting the principles of ‘Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value’ to eliminate unfair discrimination in salaries paid to employees; and
Up-scaling fines sufficiently to deter designated employers from not complying with the Act.
It is important to also highlight that as part of its endeavours to improve substantive compliance with the spirit and objectives of the Act, the Department of Labour has over the past two years, embarked on a project to assess Income Differentials in companies to determine if there are any disparities based on race and gender in as far as salaries are concerned. May I remind you that this exercise is aimed at ensuring that as a country, we comply with the requirements of the principle of ‘Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value’ outlined under Convention 100 of the International Labour Organisation, which South Africa has ratified.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to emphasise the importance of this kind of income differential assessments in the workplaces. It is time that as a country, we shift focus from just concentrating on the composition of companies’ workforce representation, but we put emphasis on substantive transformation. I must also express that thus far, the Department of Labour has not yet come across any company that has no challenges in terms of salary disparities. It must be noted that our main goal with this exercise is to ensure that where disparities do exist, companies do commit themselves to address the inequalities by implementing measures to address these disparities. This would eliminate unfair discrimination elements not only in their remuneration policies, but practices and procedures.
I have been informed that there are some companies that are resisting to submit the required Income Differential information as requested by the Department and as we speak; the Department is interacting directly with CEOs of those companies to ensure that they understand the rationale and the importance of these assessments in promoting equity in the labour market. I therefore, urge all companies to cooperate with the request of the Department to ensure that we work together in achieving the objectives of the Act.
I strongly believe that both the proposed amendments and the income differential assessments are a step in the right direction and if supported by social partners, will add impetus in expediting the pace of transformation in the South African labour market.
I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Labour
3 Aug 2011
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