Labour Minister, Mildred Oliphant, has commended Woolworths for its “unwavering effort to genuinely address transformation in the workplace through the implementation of employment equity (EE)”.
This comes after labour union Solidarity this week launched a campaign to boycott Woolworths after the retail group ignored its set deadline to remove advertisements, which the union claimed were racist towards white job seekers.
In a statement on Friday, Oliphant said it was important to highlight that Woolworths was amongst the number of large designated employers listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) that have been subjected to the Director-General Review process in terms of sections 43 to 45 of the Employment Equity Act, 1998 in 2009.
“During this process, like any other employer that was reviewed, Woolworths committed itself to transforming their workplace by implementing their Employment Equity Plan as approved by the Director General.
“Subsequent to that, as part of the department’s monitoring mechanisms, Woolworths was amongst those companies that were followed up in the 2011/2012 financial year to gauge progress made against the objectives they committed themselves to their approved Employment Equity Plan.
“Interestingly, Woolworths generally progressed well towards achieving race and gender equity at their workplace as per their own EE numerical goals and targets set in their own EE Plan consulted and agreed to with their employees,” Oliphant said.
She said there were companies that were genuinely addressing transformation in the workplace through the implementation of employment equity and Woolworths was one of them.
“However, there are those that hate to see integration in the workplace and society in general. They seek to find fault with those that genuinely implement employment equity as a means of addressing our painful past and imbalance in our society.
“As the government of South Africa and those that seek genuine transformation, we shall continue to encourage companies like Woolworths to continue with the transformation and integration of the society,” Oliphant reiterated.
Last year, the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE), which advises the minister on matters of EE, cautioned at the release of its annual report that it will take more than 129 years to transform the workplace to reflect South Africa’s demographics judging by the snail pace of transformation.
The 2011 CEE report showed that Top Management and Senior Management positions were still dominated by white people in South Africa, while black people were stuck in the lower rungs in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, in comparison to their economically active population (EAP).
Figures from the 2012 CEE report indicate that there may be not much deviation from this preponderant situation, said the minister.
She added that issues of workplace equality in South Africa were not only constitutionally imperative but also they sought to address the country’s painful past.