Nxesi says government is open to engagements on Employment Equity Act

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Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi says the government is open to engagements on the amended Employment Equity Act. Nxesi has described the criticisms of the amendment as opportunistic, political and fear-mongering.

Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2020 into law which empowers the Department of Labour to set new transformation targets for industries.

Labour union Solidarity is threatening legal action citing to challenge the act calling it draconian and unconstitutional.

On the final day of the metal industries collective bargaining summit, Nxesi delivers a keynote address at the Steel and Engineering Industrial Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) Metal Industries Collective Bargaining Summit.

He dedicates most of his speech to issues raised around the Employment Equity Act and the significance of the amendment.

Nxesi says, “They were drawn up to encourage employers to comply and they change the following, the minister is empowered in consultation with all stakeholders to set EEA sectoral targets, guidelines drawn up and provisional targets agreed and this was after consultation with the stakeholders, it was never unilateral even on the guidelines and the purpose is to support an equitable representation of suitably qualified people at all levels from the designated groups. The state has a right to expect that businesses we do business with comply with the law.”

He says proposals have been drafted and the process is now open for consultation, urging those with concerns to use the process to make commentary instead of threatening legal action.

“Amazing how those who benefited most from the racial privilege under apartheid are the first to accuse others of racial quotas reverse racism and some parties have not read this act, and it’s clear racism that still exists across the South African working space at the present rate, I mean if nothing is done this will be entrenched for many decades to come and that is what some are defending and that the challenge the EEA is seeking to address.”

Nxesi calls on role players in labour space to work with government going forward in the development of the country’s collective bargaining process and the Labour Relations Act sensitive to an ailing economy and the promotion of industrial peace.

He also pours cold water on threats of legal action and concerns raised around the amended Employment Equity Act saying this process remains integral in the transformation of the country’s labour space.

VIDEO: Nxesi addresses Metal Industries Collective Bargaining Summit:

Collective bargaining under the spotlight 

The summit put the process of collective bargaining under the spotlight with unions saying in its current form, it sparks tensions between social partners with workers often losing out.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa ( Numsa) Secretary General, Irvin Jim says, “When they produce, work out of their sweat, that must be redistributed to them both by paying them a living wage and to deliver a social wage in surrounding communities where these companies exist. We must not compromise on smashing and burying racism and all its stereotypes and backwardness whenever it rears its ugly head.”

Seifsa played host to delegates for two days and says it was necessary for social partners to converge as the industry cannot afford a repeat of the 2021 leg of wage talks that dragged for three weeks culminating in a shutdown and the industry losing R700 million rand per day.

Federation President, Elias Monage says, “It was important for us to reflect and place collective bargaining within that context to say economically where are we and how then do we person given the current state of affairs in the country, and as a sector, we needed to make hard choices in terms of the economic setup so that when we then engage government on various projects we are then informed by the current state of affairs and secondly it was to reaffirm the current economic situation that we are faced with.”

Delegates described the summit as a success saying this will help with the promotion of industrial peace and an honest approach to collective bargaining.

Coordinator at the Public Private Growth Initiative, Tanya Cohen says, “It was a fantastic mix of hearing from business and the unions and really grappling with important issues around how do you bring parties together in terms of really understanding each other and really dealing with issues that the industry is facing.”