Cosatu slams lack of workplace transformation, says whites overrepresented in top management

Cosatu equates transformation in the workplace “like an Irish coffee with cream, and some sprinkles of chocolate”.

Cosatu equates transformation in the workplace “like an Irish coffee with cream, and some sprinkles of chocolate”.

Published Jul 11, 2024


Cosatu has lamented the “shockingly sluggish pace of transformation in the workplace”, following a report showing widening demographic disparities in workplace representation.

The recent findings by the Commission of Employment Equity (CEE) showed that whites occupied 62.1% and Indians 11.6% of all positions at top management-level between April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 which is significantly higher than their respective economically active populations (EAP).

The EAP includes persons between the ages of 15 to 64 years, who are either employed or unemployed, but seeking employment.

According to the report, Africans had an EAP of 80.7% but they only accounted for 17.2% of top management positions; while the coloured population with an EAP of 9% accounted for only 6.1% of all positions at this level.

In a statement, Cosatu national spokesperson Zanele Sabela said this left “a bitter taste in the mouth” as white and male dominance in top positions in the private sector remained glaring.

“While Cosatu welcomes the noticeable change in the representation of historically-disadvantaged groups in middle-management positions, it is regrettable and unacceptable that 30 years into democracy, race and gender-profiling of workers continues to be a lived reality in boardrooms as opposed to the appointment of candidates on the basis of their skills, qualifications, and experience,” Sabela said.

“This calls for a more vigorous implementation of the Employment Equity Act by the Department of Labour and Employment and its embrace by employers.

“It’s been close to a year since the Amendment Act came into effect on September 1, 2023 making provisions for the government to strengthen its interventions and ability to hold employers accountable for their role and failures to adhere to the Employment Equity Act. Employers must be held accountable for non-compliance which is the main culprit behind the leeway for selected individuals to hoard top-management positions.”

According to the report, employees with disabilities have a very low representation at top management-level as they only made up 1.8% of top management.

The male representation remained dominant at top management-level, which was more than two-and-a-half times the female representation.

The report also showed that the government was making good progress in affirming the designated groups in terms of the various population groups.

The representation of the African population group (74.7%) was significant in the government, while in the private sector they continued to lag (14%) at this occupational-level.

The report said the private sector was the biggest employer of foreign nationals (3.0%) at this level.

Sabela said the economy of the country would only grow if all South Africans, irrespective of race and gender were included, supported, and enabled to meet their full career potential.

She said the country will only be able to tackle the entrenched levels of inequality if the government overcomes the barriers facing black and female employees, as well as persons with disabilities.

“Cosatu urges newly-appointed Employment and Labour Minister Nomakhosazana Meth to ensure the Department is fully capacitated to act upon the findings of the Commission of Employment Equity report with the urgency it deserves,” she said.

“The federation through its affiliates at workplaces will continue to push employers to fulfil their legal mandates. National Treasury also needs to ensure that all companies receiving state tenders are in compliance with the Employment Equity and National Minimum Wage Acts, as required by law.

“Transformation needs to be expedited to ensure full and equal participation in the economy by all South Africans,” Sabela said.