SAA has admitted that an online application for its cadet pilot programme had the “unintended consequence” of automatically rejecting white male candidates, but denied it discriminates on the basis of race or gender in its recruiting.
The admission came after trade union Solidarity said it had submitted two applications for the programme on the SAA website using identical profiles.
“The only difference was that one of the people was a young white male named Kosie and the other was a black man named Sipho. Kosie immediately received a letter in which his application was rejected while Sipho’s application was accepted,” the union’s deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann said yesterday. “Anyone can apply for the programme on SAA’s website, but applications by white men are immediately rejected,” Hermann said.
He said SAA had acknowledged this practice and defended itself, saying, “There is an over-supply of white pilots”.
The DA said it was “disturbing” that SAA excluded people from its pilot training programme on the basis of race and gender. “No South African should feel excluded on the basis of the colour of their skin or the combination of chromosomes they happen to possess. To do so is to take our reconciliation project backwards,” said DA spokeswoman on public enterprises Natasha Michael.
She said racial discrimination had been “the animating idea of apartheid” and had no place in a democratic SA.
“There has to be a better way of ensuring diversity, merit and redress than blanket racial and gender quotas.”
Freedom Front Plus MP Anton Alberts said the recruitment policy was “illegal” and his party would lodge complaints with the Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Commission.
“The FF Plus finds this action to be one of the most glaring examples of blatant racial discrimination by any government institution to date.”
He said there had been several judgments in the Labour Court which indicated that a position could not be kept vacant if no person from a designated group could be identified to fill the position.
“This implies that a white person can get the position in such an instance and that everybody should be allowed to apply for the position. The blatant blocking of an application based upon race is therefore undermining these court decisions,” Alberts said.
SAA spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba said the airline’s “normal” recruitment process allowed for vacancies to be filled by white male pilots, especially when no candidate was available from a previously disadvantaged background.
The cadet pilot development programme, however, was “specifically designed to redress the very serious demographic and gender imbalance” in SAA’s pilot corps.
Ledwaba said 85 percent of SAA pilots were white, only 7.6 percent of whom were women.
The cadet programme was intended to help meet transformation targets and anyone from a disadvantaged background, including white women, could participate. Should there be too few applications in this category, other applications would be considered.
He admitted that a “multi-stage online application system” had had the “unintended consequence of excluding certain applications based on the category of applicants”.
This had been corrected.