BLACK BUSINESS COUNCIL (BBC) SUBMISSION ON EMPLOYMENT EQUITY ACT

Background

The BBC, through its constituent members, has a proud and long history of campaigning and effectively lobbying for the legislation of what is referred today as "Employment Equity". Among our constituent members, the Black Management Forum (BMF) has had a particularly outstanding record in this regard. We are able to count, as one of our key achievements, the fact that:

(a) As early as 1993, the BMF had already developed a Blue Print on Affirmative

Action, which played a very serious role in influencing developments and plans in

this area over the past seven years.

(b) At least two of the major champions of Employment Equity within the Department of Labour, over the past three years have been direct products of the BMF (viz.; Mpho Makwana and Loyiso Mbabane). The latter is now the Executive Director of Black Business Council.

(c) BMF successfully lobbied for a special recognition and role in the negotiations on

the finalisation of the EE Act at NEDLAC. Through this special representation we were able to make some significant improvements on the Act, of which we as the BBC are extremely proud.

It is with pleasure that we inform you that we fully endorse this Act, its purpose and its objectives and we thus call for strictness and vigilance in its enforcement and its monitoring. However, we submit the following comments and proposals on the Act and its implementation:

Concern about the effectiveness of mechanisms for the monitoring and enforcement of the Act

(a) The Act has to be enforced by a Labour inspectorate that is not well schooled, on average, in human resource, transformation and organisational development issues. This is of particular concern given the fact that these Labour inspectors will be issuing compliance orders to Chief Executive Officers and Human Resource Directors, most of whom are very well resourced as far as knowledge of human resource and Organisational Development issues are concerned. Our concern is that the average level, skill and background of the typical labour inspector is not appropriate to deal with the complex defenses and excuses that employers will raise (e.g. why they could not have targets for women, at a certain level, etc.)

Recommendations

That a special and highly trained cadre of inspectors be assigned to deal with Employment Equity compliance, monitoring and enforcement. Special criteria should be developed for their selection/recruitment. These criteria should include:

- Above-average competence in the Human Resources field;

- Sound knowledge of organisational development and management development;

- Sound knowledge of affirmative action and transformation issues and challenges;

If such skills are lacking, that an extensive programme, that is on-going, be developed and administered to empower these labour inspectors, who have

got the capacity, to acquire the above competencies.

That a partnership be created with organisations like the BMF and the IPM (who have already demonstrated a commitment and have the capacity to contain the challenges), to jointly enforce and monitor compliance with the Act.

The Commission for Employment Equity is a very small Commission, which is a replica NEDLAC and it has no independence and clout

We are concerned about the fact that the Commission is constituted of representatives of social partners at NEDLAC and that some of them may adopt "partisan positions" during deliberations instead of working in the interest of the attainment of equity.

We are also concerned about the exclusion of black business in the CEL, including people who have a long history of campaigning and developing Affirmative Action Employment Equity) policy.

We are also concerned about the fact that we ended up with a merely advisory Commission that has no independent national stature and that cannot directly intervene, like other Commissions, in matters that relate to Employment Equity.

Recommendations

That consideration be given to the establishment/ elevation of the Commission to an independent national Commission along the same lines as the Youth Commission, the Gender Commission and the Human Rights Commission. The elimination of discrimination in employment and the advancement of "designated groups" is just as serious, if not more so, as the matters that are being addressed by the above Commissions.

This Commission at worst should be removed from operating under one particular department and it should be placed directly under the Office of the President. This

will then give employment equity the same status as disability and women issues,

both of which have special offices under the Office of the President. Otherwise

Employment Equity will easily be subsumed by the peculiar challenges of the Department of Labour (e.g. Budget allocations, commitments, etc.)

NEDLAC parties are not necessarily the parties within which commitment to employment equity, and expertise lie The Commission needs to be opened up to organisations that have been advancing the interests of designated groups at work, beyond trade unions. This will be in acknowledgement of the fact that it is not only trade unions that have been in the forefront of campaigns for affirmative action, but organisations like Black Management Forum, who have been beating the drums of

transformation for over two decades already. These are the organisations that are in touch with the frustrations and other employment equity challenges that are faced by many members of designated groups in employment. Participation by such groups in the Commission for Employment Equity, as re-defined, can only be in the interest of equity in South Africa.

Concern about lack of clarity on how to approach the issue of previous and current imbalances among the "designated groups"

We are concerned about the insensitivity of the Act to the fact that the members of

"designated groups" do not have the same history of disadvantages and are even at different levels in terms of past and present access to education, skills and opportunities.

The lumping up of women of all races, with disabled people of all races and all as if they must all be equally advanced, is a travesty in terms of economic

history, political history, social history and the resultant realities of today.

Recommendations

That the Act be amended at best or that regulations be immediately issued, at worst, to make it clear that:

The groups that have suffered the biggest brunt in terms of past and present discrimination and denial of opportunities, in relation to their demographics are Africans.

That in most instances African women Were and are the worst victims of denial of all sorts of opportunities and of discriminatory policies and practices of all sorts.

That discrimination does exist among blacks especially between Indians and other blacks and between Coloureds and other blacks. This discrimination is not only psychosocial but also economic and is also demonstrated in the distribution of skills and positions in industry. This reality needs to be seriously taken into account in the planning process and in setting targets.

That the guidelines on the formulation of targets should specifically require that past and present inequalities and inequitable representation be firstly addressed among the above groups rather than to treat them as if they are all the same. The guidelines should clarify the order of priorities between women of different races, disabled people of different races, the different "blacks", and so on. Provision for this is made in section 30(2)(b) with respect to research by the Commission for Employment Equity. We recommend that such research be made a priority and that these guidelines be issued by the end of December 2000.

If need be, the deadline for the submission of plans could be moved to the end of December, for all employers. This will give employers space to finalise their numerical goals, taking cognizance of the new guidelines on prioritising "designated groups". It will also give the Department time to make the changes that are recommended, including to solidification of partnership.