A number of trade union leaders today petitioned Parliament to withdraw the controversial draft Employment Equity Amendment Bill and consider a new draft attached to the petition.
The petition asks that Parliament adopt a view of affirmative action that focuses on an input-based approach, namely training and development, rather than an outcomes-based approach, namely representation.
In respect of representation, the unions ask that a new bill contain a specific clause to provide employers with the option of selecting national, provincial or regional demographics at their discretion.
The petition is signed by Khulile Nkushubana, general secretary of the 300 000-member Confederation of SA Workers’ Unions (Consawu); Envor Barros, general secretary of the National Certificated Fishing and Allied Workers’ Union; René Govender, Consawu educator; Nora Juries, representing the Domestic and Farm Workers’ Union; Flip Buys, general secretary of Solidarity; Mervin Wessels, chairman of the SA Tourism and Tourist Guide Allied Workers’ Union; and Rodney Damon, general secretary of the Builders Workers’ Union.
The petition has also been submitted to the labour department and the National Economic Development and Labour Council.
At a media briefing in Cape Town, the union representatives were unanimous that the current wording in the proposed bill determined without a doubt that the national demographics of the economically active population had to be used when affirmative action was applied.
The implication was that, among others, about 1 million economically active coloureds in the Western Cape, 100 000 in the Northern Cape, and 300 000 Indians in KwaZulu-Natal were thus “overrepresented”.
“If a judge has to deliver a verdict, he will look at the specific wording of the act. This is common practice when laws are interpreted,” they said.
Various speakers contended the bill was “politically motivated”.
The draft bill had not been withdrawn yet and the amendments as they were currently formulated were being defended. Thus, the “true meaning of the [bill] is being questioned”.
They suggested it was intended to marginalise minorities in the country.
The draft bill submitted by the unions states that the development of an educated and skilled workforce comprising both designated and non-designated citizens is the only way equal opportunity of a lasting nature and fair treatment in employment can be achieved to the benefit of all South Africans.
It further proposes that skills development plans be used as instruments of affirmative action, and includes the clause on representation as outlined in the petition.
The unions have approached various political parties, including the ANC, DA, Congress of the People, Independent Democrats, Inkatha Freedom Party, FP, Freedom Front Plus, and the African Christian Democratic Party to support the new draft and present it to parliament.
In a statement later, Freedom Front Plus spokesman Anton Alberts said his party had acceded to the request and officially submitted the draft as a private member’s bill to the office of the Speaker.
Alberts said the proposed amendments were of cardinal interest to “fix the original policy” and move away from the current “anti-brown and anti-Indian racist principles of Jimmy Manyi and the ANC”.