More than 300000 Indians in KwaZulu-Natal would have to migrate to other provinces to find jobs if a government amendment to the Labour Bill is successful.
In December, the Department of Labour proposed a change to Section 42 of the Employment Equity Act which replaces the regional racial demographic for equity compliance with a national benchmark. Critics says if passed, the bill would have negative consequences for coloureds in the Western Cape and Indians in KwaZulu-Natal.
Employers, they say, would be forced when employing staff to ensure that four out of five new appointments or promotions are reserved for African workers. Failure to do so by an employer would result in penalties.
The Solidarity Research Institute - part of Trade Union Solidarity - released a study this week which revealed that, if the bill is passed, "more than 300000 Indians in KwaZulu-Natal would have to leave this province in order for race-group targets to be met".
The institute said in order for the proposed bill to reach its goals, the KZN Indian workforce would decrease by about 75%. The group would be forced to move to Johannesburg to find jobs. It also says almost an estimated one-million coloureds from Western Cape would have to find jobs outside the province.
Dirk Hermann, deputy general secretary of Solidarity, called the changes "unfeasible social engineering".
He said it would not reflect the economically active population but national demographics. "Each workplace ... would have to have a 73.7% representation of black employees, 10.9% representation of coloured, 3.2% representation of Indians and a 12.2% representation of white employees."
"This is absurd and not practical," he said. Solidarity would take legal action if the amendments are passed.
Department of labour spokesman Page Boikanyo said: "Nowhere in the proposed change is there a proposal to remove 'regional' and leave 'national', in fact both 'national and regional' are removed.
He said the proposed amendment will allow employers "flexibility" to decide whether to use regional or national demographics depending on their operations.
Political analyst Sanusha Naidu said if the bill was passed it would further marginalise Indian job seekers, making them think there was no opportunity in the country, and causing them to feel apathetic.
Naidu said influential Indian businessmen should step up and voice their thoughts on the proposed changes.
"I want to know what these Indian captains of industry are saying. Are they saying 'let's now promote the skills because we also believe the Indian community has been disadvantaged, we also believe that the Indian community has lost out and we want to address some of these issues'?"
Naidu said there was the perception that Indians had not been historically disadvantaged and were "wealthy".
Andrew Layman, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said it was perfectly logical for companies to mirror the demographics of a particular locality but added that to extend it nationally, was counterproductive and illogical. "It seems someone has extended the principal of equity beyond logical bounds. Local demographics should be the driving force of equity."
He said if the bill was passed, minority groups such as Indians would be at a disadvantage in the search for jobs.
Rajen Reddy, chief executive of KZN Oils, said the issue was an emotional one because of apartheid, adding that government needed to be careful when redressing imbalances.
He said his business was based on merit which is a "necessity in business".
"You can't rush and get emotional. Business is about rands and cents. You have to do what it takes to make money. Government works on other principals but business is different."
He said if the changes were made, the oil business would be affected as there were many whites who had necessary skills.
"What do I do then, kick them out? I will not do that to KZN Oils. I want their expertise. I want to use their skills to empower our people so all can have a better life."
However, he said people needed to be mindful of having businesses that reflected the majority population of the country.
Minority Front leader Amichand Ranjbansi said the proposed changes would "trample" on minorities in the country.
The DA's George Mari said he was "appalled" by the proposed changes, saying it would have a devastating effect on the Indian community.
Article courtesy of Sunday Times
Article by TENESHIA NAIDOO
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