Cape Town – 131018 – From left to right in uniform, Geo-Nita Baartman, Christopher February, Teresa Abrahams and Derik Wehr celebrates today’s victory. Nine members of the Department of Correctional Services where seeking justice at the Labour Court in Cape Town regarding equal employment opportunity after being exposed to unfair discrimination. Reporter: Leila Samodien. Photographer: Armand Hough

Cape Town - The Cape Town Labour Court on Friday reserved judgment in an affirmative action case involving the correctional services department and trade union Solidarity.

“The judge suggested that the parties should try to reach a settlement before judgement is given on February 6,” Solidarity's executive officer Dirk Hermann said in a statement.

The department allegedly disregarded the Labour Court's ruling in October that it should not only take national demographics into consideration when implementing affirmative action policies.

The court ruled in October that the department had to take immediate steps to take both national and regional demographics into account when setting equity targets. This was applicable at all levels of the department's work force.

Hermann said the department argued that the ruling need not be implemented as it had lodged an appeal against it.

He said on Thursday that the union would seek interim relief in terms of which the department would be forced to adhere to the order until the case was heard by the Labour Appeal Court.

Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker ruled in favour of 10 Western Cape correctional service officials who had challenged the department's employment equity plan. Initially five officials challenged the department and they were followed by another five who had been overlooked for promotion because of their race.

Solidarity, which took up the matter on behalf of the 10, said in a statement at the time that coloured employees were disadvantaged by the use of national demographics.

The judge ruled that all 10 officials were black employees in terms of the Employment Equity Act. He found they had suffered unfair discrimination in the selection process used for promotion to various posts.

Hermann said at the time that in terms of the department's affirmative action plan, the national demography had to be reflected in every workplace, even at a provincial and regional level.

“As a result, in the Western Cape, coloured employees, in particular, almost have no chance anymore to be promoted or appointed,” Hermann said.

On Thursday, Hermann said the department had advertised jobs which its members, the applicants, had applied for.

“It appears that the department is determined to use the national demography, thereby evading its obligations in terms of the court order. Although Solidarity has requested the department not to advertise the posts for which the applicants in the case had applied pending the appeal, the department has, nevertheless, indicated that it was going to advertise the posts.”

Hermann said the union would make sure the department adhered to the court order.

Department spokesman Manelisi Wolela said: "It should be... noted that matters raised by the Solidarity are subject to an appeal process and therefore sub judice. Correctional services would prefer not to engage on any of the substantive matters currently before court."