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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU STATEMENT ON EMPLOYMENT EQUITY BILL

13 August 1998

COSATU welcomes the passage of the Employment Equity Bill through Parliament's Labour Portfolio Committee, as well as the fact that some of our concerns which, were not addressed in Nedlac have now been partly addressed. The Employment Equity Bill is part of a package, which is aimed at fundamentally transforming the apartheid labour market. With the passage of the Skills Development Bill, 1998 will have been a watershed year for this transformation.

In particular, we welcome those aspects of the legislation which aim at seeing to it that the transformation of the labour market is not simply about benefiting a few people and changing the complexion of inequality in South Africa, but that it will have meaning for millions of ordinary workers through the eradication of the inherited apartheid-era wage gap.

We believe that working class families and the economy in general stand to benefit from this legislation, even though our preference would have been to require employers to address disproportionate wage differentials in their "equity plans", instead of simply having to report on the extent of these differentials and embark on measures such as collective bargaining, compliance with determinations and the implementation of training.

COSATU applauds the intention of the legislation to place an obligation on employers to "progressively reduce" the disproportionate income differentials which have been inherited from the practice and structures of the apartheid labour market.

We noted the Department of Labour representatives' submission to the Labour Portfolio Committee earlier today that government intends that the legislation should place an obligation on employers to reduce the wage gap. We fully support this intention, but maintain our view that it could have been expressed more clearly in the legislation.

Whilst the State law Advisor and the Department advised the Committee that employers will be obligated to take steps to reduce disproportionate wage differentials even if the Minister does not issue guidance, the language of the Bill itself is not sufficiently clear in this regard. It is possible that the Bill will be interpreted to mean that there is no obligation for employers to take any action at all to reduce the wage gap if the Minister chooses not to issue guidance.

If our legal advice is that the Bill does not give effect to the intention to place a clear obligation on employers to reduce disproportionate wage differentials in terms of nationally stipulated benchmarks, then COSATU will seek further amendments to see to it that this intention is captured in a clear and unequivocal way.

Nowetu Mpati COSATU Head of Communications

Tel: + 27 + 11 + 339-4911 Fax: + 27 + 11 + 339-2281 E-mail: nowetu@cosatu.org.za

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