by Carol Paton, 08 April 2014

THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Western Cape has added its voice to the outcry over the draft employment equity regulations published by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, which will change the way targets for racial representivity are measured.

The regulations state that targets for the transformation of the upper levels of the workforce should be determined by the national rather than regional demographic profile of the population. This would disadvantage coloured and Indian employees in terms of promotions in provinces where their regional demographic representation is markedly larger than their national one.

In a letter to shop stewards and Cosatu members on Monday, provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said the federation’s provincial structures supported the Employment Equity Act as it stands. “The law presently states that provincial demographics must be used for workplaces in the Western Cape … This is a position that Cosatu Western Cape supports and will take forward in the discussions on the national regulations.”

In recent weeks, the Democratic Alliance (DA), the African National Congress in the Western Cape and the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union have opposed Ms Oliphant’s prescriptions. The three are among groups that have made submissions to the Department of Labour on the regulations, which are to be finalised after comment.

But Cosatu was at pains to point out that its objections to the regulations were different from those of DA leader and Western Cape premier Helen Zille. Last week, Ms Zille wrote to all employees of the Western Cape government assuring them that she would fight the regulations all the way to the Constitutional Court if they become law. She said the provincial government would appoint people on merit.

Mr Ehrenreich said that while Cosatu wanted a truly representative workforce, the DA’s objection was intended to protect the position of white managers by persuading coloureds to align with them.