Assessing 10 years of employment equity

2010-02-27 11:17

Since becoming chairperson of the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) in November, what goals have you set for the remaining months of your term?
Our term as commissioners ends in July. The biggest target is to release the 10th annual report. It is a status report on where employment equity is 10 years on. We hope to release it in April.

We have recommended changes to the Employment Equity Act which we hope will make it ­stringent and easier to implement and monitor. The proposals are being discussed at the National ­Economic Development and Labour Council.

We would also like to highlight the battle over equal pay for equal value of work. Males are generally paid more than females and whites are generally paid more than blacks.

What are the key elements of the commission’s proposals?
One is to fine non-compliant companies 10% of their revenue. A lot of our proposals deal with monitoring, because the current process is cumbersome. We propose short-circuiting the current process, especially in cases where the CEE finds non-compliant companies.

Are companies embracing employment equity?
Not to the extent that you would expect after 10 years. Last year’s report clearly shows that there is a dominance of white males at the top and at senior management level. This means we have not moved much over the years.

Why are we seeing a lot of reviews by the labour department Director- general?
The reviews are a tool that is available and they have been very effective. The department would not be using them if everything was going well. They are seeing low levels of compliance.

We have requested the labour department to ­increase its capacity in relation to the reviews, ­because we see that companies do a lot more once they have undergone a review.

We would like to see more companies coming under review. Fortunately, they (the department) were also looking at increasing their capacity.

How many companies have come ­under review?
Over the past two years 90 companies have come under review.

Does the labour department follow up on plans submitted by companies?
Yes, it does that every year.

How much of a threat are BEE oppotunities to transformation?
More empowerment deals are including workers these days. That is one way companies have managed that risk. But having shares in other companies has been happening throughout the history of corporate South Africa. As long as these investments are declared and they do not distract the employee, it should be fine. Managers and employees have always been passive shareholders in ­other companies.

How hostile is the private sector ­towards black women?
The numbers indicate that there is little movement in that respect. It could be because of a combination of factors. Either the environment is not ready for females, or it could be because of race.

There have been great strides for white females. That indicates that the challenge is not a blanket female issue. Very little movement has happened among black females. This suggests it is a race issue. Business is struggling to look beyond race when it comes to black females.

How has the recession affected ­employment equity?
The recession has had a negative effect on many companies’ profits and head count. Some have had to retrench, but when you retrench you don’t do that by race but rather by performance. So the impact should be on the entire workforce.

Businesses still recruit during the recession, but at a lower pace. Employment equity is still a ­criterion. This means hiring managers need to apply their minds harder in the recruitment process.

What do cases at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) tell you about transformation?
Statistics show that companies have more disciplinary cases against blacks than whites, but we don’t have the reasons for these cases.

We would like to collaborate with the CCMA to make sense of the numbers.

What other institution would you like to see the CEE work closely with?
We would like to work closely with the Commission for Gender Equality, the Human Rights Commission and labour.

We are also trying to collaborate with the youth. There are a lot of young people who are getting degrees but can’t get jobs. The country does not want to find itself with irritated clever minds.

Has Alexander Forbes come under review?
Yes – last January.

What has happened since?
We have corrected a lot of the shortcomings that were picked up during the review. Last month we submitted our employment equity report to the ­labour department.

If a company has not corrected its shortcomings the department does not allow it to submit.

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