Coloured workers face axe

2011-02-21 18:45

Almost a million economically active coloured workers in the Western Cape will lose their jobs and be replaced by black workers if the government’s proposed ­labour laws are passed.

About 80% of all economically active coloured people will have to look for work in other parts of the country, trade union Solidarity has calculated. Cosatu says its calculations are about the same.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the proposed amendments to the Employment Equity Act, which makes national rather than provincial demographics the determining factor for affirmative ­action, will result in about 300 000 Indians losing their jobs, said deputy general secretary of Solidarity Dirk Hermann.

Reflecting the country’s demographics in the workplace will mean that workplaces across the country will have to be made up of 73.7% black workers, 10.9% coloured, 3.2% Indian and 12.2% white workers, regardless of the province’s demographics.

The Western Cape’s economically active population is currently made up of about 29,1% black workers, 54,8% coloured workers, 0,5% Indian workers and 15,6% white workers.

In order to mirror national demographics, this will have to change.

This will mean that the number of coloured and white workers who are economically active will have to go down by 80% and 22% respectively, while the number of black and Indian people who are economically active will have to increase by 154% and 158% to mirror national demographics.

Cosatu’s Tony Ehrenreich said the Western Cape branch of Cosatu has urged the government to be cautious, and would take the issue up in Nedlac negotiation forums.

“It is currently only a bill. The historical demographics of regions need to be considered. The purpose of affirmative action is not to further disadvantage historically disadvataged groups, as will happen to coloured people in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape should this bill be accepted,” said Ehrenreich.

Hermann said: “These absurd figures clearly prove that the proposed amendments to the law are totally unworkable and unrealistic in their current form.”

Solidarity’s legal team has ­already started compiling a case they will take to court if the amendments are approved.

The Western Cape’s ANC has been relatively silent regarding the matter until now but the new provincial leader, Marius Fransman, has pointed out that the proposed amendments were not final.

DA MP Ian Ollis said the party, which is currently fighting the law in parliament, will also go to court if the bill is forced through by the ANC majority.

Ex-premier Peter Marais, who opposes the bill along with coloured leaders, said the ANC was expecting coloured people to ­embrace the discriminatory practices from the past.

“Here comes trouble!” he predicted.

University of Cape Town constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos said a strong case could be made that the new laws were unconstitutional.

“The constitution says that there has to be affirmative action, but it has to be done according to executable policies.

“The consequences of the law have to be taken into account.

“The Constitutional Court has already found that affirmative action cannot result in unfair discrimination, and although it is fuzzy, I think this makes the bill unconstitutional,” he said.

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