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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU WELCOMES PASSAGE OF THE EMPLOYMENT EQUITY BILL

21 August 1998

COSATU welcomes the passage of the Employment Equity Bill into law by parliament today.

The bill was passed into law despite of opposition parties, which represent white voters. It is a pity that they remain entrenched in the apartheid era although they say "they have embraced the new South Africa". Obviously they have not yet embraced the new South Africa, transformation and reconciliation.

We salute the African National Congress for standing fast despite opposition, mounted by the National Party, Democratic Party and the Freedom Front. We also thank the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Pan Africanist Congress for their support in ensuring that the bill is passed into law. We hope that this will not be a temporary alignment as far as pursuing transformation in our country.

We also extend out gratitude to the Minister of Labour and his Department for responding to destructive criticisms from those who opposed the bill. The research and statistics they produced on current employment patterns was a milestone in proving the opposition parties wrong in their myth that employment equity in the workplace could be achieved without legislation.

The statistics produced by the department based on research show that, though we accepted the new democracy in 1994 there was still a huge discrepancy in the allocation of posts to the Blacks, Indians, Coloureds and White workers in this country. Their statistics showed that in June 1998 there was only 1% of women in senior posts, 11% blacks and 87% were white. This shows that we need this particular bill.

COSATU has consistently maintained the view, both in our submissions to the committee last month, and at NEDLAC, that the Employment Equity Bill must address the issue of the apartheid wage gap, if it is to have meaning for the millions of ordinary workers, who are the worst victims of apartheid discrimination, and who will not be able to reach the upper echelons of the workforce, despite the affirmative action provisions of the legislation.

We have supported the philosophy of the legislation that employment equity must benefit everybody, and not just an elite few. We have taken the view that the legislation must address the critical legacy of massive income inequalities, which was a deliberate policy under apartheid, in order to make this philosophical approach a reality, and that in this respect the Draft Bill was seriously defective. We proposed a series of concrete amendments to remedy this defect, within the broad philosophical approach and architecture of the Bill. We also proposed an integrated strategy to address these differentials, which combines measures in the Employment Equity legislation with other legislation and processes. A number of organisations have supported us in this view. Further a concept document tabled by the Department of Labour in the parliamentary committee broadly endorsed this approach.

Proposed amendments by the Department of Labour to Section 19 requiring designated employers to report on income differentials, are an important advance even though they don't require employers to address income differentials in their equity plan, as we had originally proposed. Further, the Department has proposed a new section 27, which lists measures which employers may take to reduce disproportionate differentials, including training measures, compliance with determinations and collective bargaining. It also empowers the Employment Conditions Commission to research benchmarks for proportionate income differentials.

COSATU extends a call to all South Africans to give the Employment Equity Bill support. It is the only way in which we can be able to achieve national reconciliation and transformation in our country. South Africans must also bear in mind the fact that those who go to them (DP and NP) canvassing their votes are the same people who oppose the national transformation in our country.

COSATU calls on Coloureds, Indian and African communities who still remain members of the National Party and thinking about joining and voting for the Democratic Party, that these parties only want their votes but when it comes to the crunch they will always protect the interests of their white voters.

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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