Race targets in the workplace

SA government is not happy with the pace of transformation in the workplace. Image: Pixabay

‘Race quotas’ – DA calls for defiance against new workplace laws

On Saturday, DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen called out the ‘absurdity’ of government’s new race targets for businesses.

Race targets in the workplace

SA government is not happy with the pace of transformation in the workplace. Image: Pixabay

Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi recently published for comment a much-anticipated notice that proposed numerical race targets under the Employment Equity Act (EEA).

It applies to any workplace with more than 50 employees.

The introduction of targets is a significant move as there have so far been no numerical targets in South Africa that underpin affirmative action.

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On Saturday in Chatsworth – a predominantly Indian settlement outside Durban – an incensed Steenhuisen wondered what ANC struggle heroes would think about the new “racist” bill.

“I’d like all of us here to consider what Uncle Kathy [Ahmed Kathrada] would say about the ANC’s new racial quota law,” he said.

“It sets quotas for every workplace, in every economic sector, in every province, throughout this entire country. While the ANC tries to call these quotas “targets,” we know that they are, in fact, forced quotas. Because if companies don’t comply, they are severely punished.”

Fines for non-compliance

According to the proposed legislation, businesses can be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover and will be cut off from all government business.

Steenhuisen looked at the implications these targets might have across different provinces, starting with president Cyril Ramaphosa’s birth province of the North-West.

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“In the manufacturing sector in North West, the law restricts the employment of Indian South African females to 0.1%, and males to 0.2%. Let’s just think about the insulting absurdity of this. If a company with 50 employees employs even one Indian person, they will be exceeding the quota of 0.1%. Because one out of 50 is 2%.

“But if that company then fires their only Indian employee on the basis of their race, they will also violate the quota because they will then be below 0.1%.”

Steenhuisen said he found it an outrage and an insult that any group of South Africans can be “reduced to decimal points” in the land of their birth. He then turned to his home province of KZN.

“Right here in KZN, the ANC wants to limit the share of Indian people working in skilled positions at every company in the retail industry in this province to 3.6% for men and 3.1% for women. How many people in this room knows of a business in Chatsworth where more than 3.6% of the workforce is of Indian descent?

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“If we let this law stand, every one of those businesses can be driven into bankruptcy through fines and punishment from the government. Thousands of men and women in this community will lose their jobs.

“Children who are currently studying to become skilled professionals will be doomed to unemployment because they have the “wrong” skin colour. Even more of our children will emigrate and skills will flee the country.”

A bill that will affect all races

The DA went on to further illustrate how these proposed ‘race quotas’ would affect other communities in other provinces of South Africa.

“In a province like the Northern Cape, a business operating in Kimberley will be violating the law if they happen to employ more than 15.8% black women. In Limpopo and Mpumalanga, the share of coloured people who may be employed at certain businesses is, literally, 0.0%. Zero percent.

“The ANC is introducing a law that will ban entire groups of South Africans from working in specific areas or sectors. The only way we can defeat this evil, racist law, is by standing united.

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“I call on companies, big and small, to defy a law that prevents them from hiring skilled people.

“I call on workers to defy a law that judges them not on the content of their character, but on the colour of their skin,” Steenhuisen added.

The notice has drawn criticism from many quarters in recent weeks. Earlier this month trade union Solidarity served a summons on Ramaphosa, the Department of Employment and Labour and the Employment Equity Commission. They dispute the constitutionality of the amendment bill and claim that government is guilty of being in contempt of international labour conventions.