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Busa sceptical of new Employment Equity Bill, saying business will suffer

'To accept the current bill as it stands will have unintended consequences on businesses and their ability to grow and to sustain or create employment,' argues Busa

Labour minister Thulas Nxesi, who is the custodian of the Employment Equity.
Labour minister Thulas Nxesi, who is the custodian of the Employment Equity.
Image: Esa Alexander

Business Unity SA (Busa) has said that the pace of transformation in the workplace has been slow, but expressed scepticism at the possible amendment of the Employment Equity Bill, which seeks to change this.

The bill, if amended, is set to shake up the country's employment equity laws and give the minister of employment and labour powers to fast-track transformation in different sectors. It will also allow the minister to determine sectoral numerical targets for employers.

Addressing the portfolio committee on labour and employment on Thursday, Busa expressed scepticism and rejected some of the bill's components.

 “We need to be careful that target-setting does not become a punitive and blunt instrument that does not contribute  to a transformed, professional, committed and skilled workforce but instead results in unintended consequences,” said Busa's chair of social policy, Kaizer Moyane.

Busa said section 15A of the bill must be amended to clearly state that the minister must consult relevant sectors when determining what numerical targets should be.

“The setting of targets by the minister based on unspecified factors, for a variety of sectors, subsectors and regions cannot be accepted,” Moyane said.

Instead, the unity proposed that the bill should reflect that the sector target should be set with the respective industries  through a joint consensus-seeking process and based on a long-term skills development plan.

“The approach of 'joint consensus-seeking' is entrenched in various key processes in the Labour Relations Act and employers and workers are familiar with it. We believe that this same approach should be adopted in setting sector targets if these targets are to be effective,” said Moyane.

The contentious bill is the government's attempt to fast-track transformation in the workplace. Busa said it was not against the move to do so, but warned that it should be done in a constitutional manner.

“As Busa, we are not going to be trying to cover up or apologise for the lack of transformation. In fact, our starting point is to acknowledge that the pace of transformation in this country has indeed been slow, which is why we believe that it is not necessarily a bad thing to have the approach that was adopted back in Nedlac in 2017/18, as proposed, where targets may be consulted on with sectors to assist the  country to move forward.

“We respectfully submit that to accept the current bill as it stands will not only undermine the workings of Nedlac by unravelling agreements reached by social partners, but we will also have unintended consequences on businesses and their ability to grow and to sustain or create employment,” added Moyane.

As parliament continues with public hearings on the controversial bill, Busa charged it was important for sector targets to be set with respective industry bodies who can share meaningful information, including the composition of the industry and the economic challenges faced in the industry.


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