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Woolies in jobs race row

Cape Town -Trade union Solidarity has given Woolworths until noon on Wednesday to withdraw job advertisements which the union considers racist, or face a “full-scale campaign”.

Woolworths has denied that the advertisements are racist.

(File photo) Woolworths. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi. Credit: INLSA

In three of several advertisements for vacancies in the Western Cape, published on its website, the retail group states that in accordance with employment equity requirements the vacancies are for coloured, black or Indian applicants. In one advert the vacancy was designated for “African black” candidates only. 

Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Herman wrote to Woolworths chief executive Ian Moir on Tuesday charging that white, coloured and Indian applicants had been barred from applying for the jobs.

 Woolworths’ interpretation of the Employment Equity Act was legally and morally wrong, and while the act allowed preferential treatment, it excluded quotas, Herman wrote.

Solidarity demanded that the adverts be withdrawn by noon on Wednesday.

 “Should Woolworths choose not to respond favourably to our requests, Solidarity will launch a full-scale campaign against Woolworths to mobilise public opinion and pressure in order to ensure that Woolworths adheres to these requests,” stated the union’s letter to Moir.

 Herman said: “The Employment Equity Act does not allow for this type of exclusion – so Woolworths’ affirmative action plan is not in line with the Employment Equity Act.” 

He said a public campaign against Woolworths could include letters of complaint to the company and a webpage for people to add their views, and a boycott might be considered if Woolworths refused to budge. 

Woolworths’ press office confirmed that Moir had received Solidarity’s letter and reported that none of the adverts had been withdrawn on Tuesday night. 

A Woolworths statement read: “The Employment Equity Act expects all South African companies with more than 50 employees to plan [the] workforce by race, gender and disability. Our workforce is diverse and includes people of all races.

 “Like all South African companies, Woolworths has a role to play in transformation. For this reason, some positions (where there is under-representation) are designated groups. The designated groups are Africans, coloureds, Indians, women and people with disability. It is not true that all positions are reserved for these designated groups.

 “Woolworths employs people of all races.” 

It said it appreciated the value diversity brought to its business and that there was a need to contribute to levelling the playing fields for certain groups.

 “This is not a racist practice,” Woolworths statement said. 

SA Commercial and Catering Workers Union deputy general secretary Mduduzi Bongwe said: “Employment Equity does not mean whites cannot apply. Woolworths must clarify its position because designated employees include women and that means white women as well.” He said Saccawu would not “make a big issue out of this.”

Solidarity had a different constituency, he said.

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