18 July 2014

South Africa: CWU Statement On the Telkom Employment Equity Policy and Plan

press release

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) fully agrees with and supports Telkom's Employment Equity Policy and plan the spirit and intent of which is to achieve employment equity in the workplace and which in our view will go a long way in assisting us to arrive at a meaningful and thoroughgoing transformation of this critical and apex telecommunications entity of our country.

In throwing our full weight behind this policy, we are inspired by the fact that employment equity in our country is a legislative requirement meant to do away with the bitter legacy of racism, gender discrimination, discrimination against people with disabilities and other unacceptable practices which negatively affected the overwhelming majority of South Africans under apartheid.

However, as a country we are still far from realizing the noble objectives of the Employment Equity Act in order to transform the South African workplace. This is quite clear from the 14th annual report of the Commission for Employment Equity released in April 2014. The picture on senior management spread in relation to the demographics of the country paints an unacceptable reality in the workplace. For instance, in terms of population group or race, whites still constitute 57% of senior management, Africans 23,1% and the remainder is shared by Coloureds, Indians and foreign nationals at 10,0%, 7,0% and 3,0% respectively. In terms of gender, males constitute 70% whilst females trail behind at a mere 30%. The disabled people make up just 1, 3% of senior management positions.

Despite progress made since the enactment of the Employment Equity Act, much more still needs to be done and as the CWU we are of the firm view that parastatals such as Telkom and the public sector as a whole must lead by example in meeting the targets on employment equity and skills development of the workforce.

We draw courage and inspiration from the fact that the Statement of Commitment under clause 3 (c) of the policy commits the Operating Committee to “a conscious and deliberate effort to correct the imbalances of the past within Telkom by building the capacity of blacks, women and disabled persons in the employ of the company”.

Further to that, sub-section (d) enjoins the Operating Committee to “ensure that employees from historically disadvantaged groups will be represented in all areas of skill and responsibility….”

This is a bold statement of intent which requires an equally bold and committed leadership to see realized. Unfortunately, the management at Telkom and the Operating Committee in particular seems to lack the courage of conviction and boldness to move the company into the envisaged organization which is fair and fully representative of the demographics of our country at all levels i.e. operational, supervisory and management.

In another bold and spirited intent, Telkom's 2002 Employment Equity Plan outlines clear organizational targets for internal promotion, external recruitment and overall representation targets to be achieved by 31st March 2006, which targets have unfortunately been missed largely due to a lack of strong will and foresight on the side of management. As CWU, we are very much surprised and flabbergasted by the fact that only one local African out of twelve top executives on M2 level was appointed in the recent round of appointments by the GCEO. More than half of these placements are from the historically-favoured white race. This makes mockery of the entire Equity Plan and the policy itself but also constitutes a total disregard and an insult to African employees within Telkom who should be the first ones to be considered for senior positions in line with employment equity and affirmative action programmes.

As a union, we are further disturbed by the attitude and posture taken by some in our country who now threaten to go to court in a bid to stall and frustrate the smooth implementation of Telkom's equity policy. This we view as nothing but a desperate effort to safeguard their narrow self-interest by holding the entire process hostage. Indeed many of these beneficiaries of apartheid's discriminatory labour market within and outside Telkom view this policy and the Employment Equity Act holistically as a serious threat to their old ill-gotten privileges.

A radical implementation of Telkom's Employment Equity Policy and Plan will significantly improve the working and living conditions of many employees. As such, CWU will remain vigilant and steadfast in its push for real transformation at Telkom in favour of the working class and its allies. We are battle-ready to unleash if needs be, the power of organized workers under our auspices to wage militant struggles to ensure that the equity policy is implemented to realize an end to discrimination and for a progressive narrowing of the apartheid wage gap.

Whilst we concur with the progressive thrust of Telkom's EE policy document, we are deeply concerned and offended by the despicable manner in which the company is driving the ongoing restructuring process which ought to be within the broad framework of the employment equity policy. The fact that the consultation process as stipulated in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act and clauses 4.4.2 or Principle 2; 4.5 (iv) and 4.6 (e) (i) of Telkom's Employment Equity Policy document is progressing at a snail's pace is a worrying factor for us as organized labour.

CWU calls upon the management at Telkom to start taking this process with the seriousness and integrity it deserves for it to achieve its intended objective and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders, not least of these being organized labour.

Anything short of a mutually-agreed to outcome will certainly upset the prevailing labour peace in the workplace.

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