Labour Court rules on affirmative action case

2014-02-06 12:53

The correctional services department has to consider both national and regional demographics in recruitment and promotion, the Cape Town Labour Court has ruled.

Judge Anton Steenkamp said today the court’s previous ruling to this effect, in favour of trade union Solidarity, would be implemented and enforced pending an appeal by the department.

The department had argued that the ruling need not be implemented as it had lodged an appeal against it.

“Should the court order be implemented pending appeal, service delivery will not be adversely affected,” Steenkamp said in his judgment.

“On the other hand, should permanent appointments be made with regard to national demographics only, coloured employees and applicants for appointment will be irreparably compromised.”

Solidarity approached the court last month for urgent interim relief after it seemed the department had advertised 195 permanent positions, for which some of its coloured members had applied. It had enrolled 194 applicants into a learnership programme.

Steenkamp said it initially seemed no coloured people would be eligible for learnerships. It was only in a last-minute affidavit, handed in on Monday, that the department informed the court that it had decided to deviate from its equity plan for, at least, the racial distribution of people in its learnership programme.

The court ruled in October that the department had to take immediate steps to take both national and regional demographics into account when setting equity targets. This was applicable at all levels of the department’s work force.

The department had only used national demographic targets – 79.3% black, 8.8% coloured, 9.3% white, and 2.5% Indian.

Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker ruled in favour of 10 Western Cape correctional services officials who had challenged the department’s employment equity plan.

Initially five officials challenged the department and they were followed by another five who had been overlooked for promotion because of their race.

The judge ruled that all 10 officials should benefit from restitutory measures created by the Employment Equity Act and the right to equality under the Constitution. Rabkin-Naicker found they had suffered unfair discrimination in the selection process used for promotion to various posts.

The affected correctional services employees today cheered and punched their fists in the air upon hearing the order.

Outside court, the department’s deputy regional commissioner Freddie Engelbrecht, who had previously testified on the difficulty of being promoted, said he was happy with the order.

“They can say they are not discriminating but they are. It’s a fact. We are saying it’s for our children, grandchildren. And it’s not just for coloured people but for all minorities, including white people,” he said.

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