A landmark battle over affirmative action in the Western Cape has ended in victory for local Correctional Services staff and is likely to have far-reaching implications for employment practices in the province’s public sector.
However, the complainants say they will appeal against part of the judgment because it does not go far enough, failing to determine whether they will now get the jobs they had originally applied for.
The judgment, delivered in the Labour Court yesterday by Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker, ruled that regional demographics had also to be taken into account in setting equity targets - and that nine of the complainants, all coloured, had suffered unfair discrimination.
The case, which challenged the Correctional Services Department’s employment equity plan, was lodged by 10 employees - the remaining complainant was white - along with trade union Solidarity.
The judge ruled the department had to take into account both
national and regional demographics when setting equity targets.
In the case the coloured complainants were regarded as black, but the judge said this meant they had suffered unfair discrimination in the selection process for promotion to various posts.
The selection and recruitment processes ignored the Western Cape’s demographics.
Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann said the judge had not dealt with certain constitutional issues, and they would appeal against aspects of the judgment.
“We can’t expect the Labour Court to pass judgment on important constitutional matters, and therefore we still want to go to the Constitutional Court. This victory is significant, but it’s not the end of the road,” he said.
He said later the group responded to the judgment with “thankfulness and joy.
It was a very long and emotional process.”
They still had a long way to go, and would launch a “partial appeal” and seek further relief to get the officials appointed to the jobs for which they had applied.
Prison authorities yesterday welcomed the ruling, which they said affirmed the preamble of the constitution.
“(The department) will appoint a team to review its policies with respect to implementation of the Employment Equity Act, as directed by the court,” acting national commissioner Nontsikelelo Jolingana said.
It would hold talks with organised labour and the departments of labour, and public service and administration.
The Freedom Front Plus said the judgment was a victory against the unfairness of affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).
“This judgment must be a huge embarrassment for the ANC government as it comes a day after the comments of Dr Rob Davies, the minister of trade and industry, that BEE has not disadvantaged or harmed a single person in South Africa,” FF+ parliamentary leader Pieter Groenewald said.
Earlier this year, President Jacob Zuma told Parliament he did not know of any person who had been harmed by these policies.
“The president and the ANC can just look at this judgment to find confirmation of the fact that people are affected by it, that they are denied opportunities, and that it could impoverish them,” Groenewald said. - Saturday Argus