The South African government is pushing harder to ensure that race balance policy is strictly adhered to in companies.
People of white race are still dominating in most companies and this is a very big problem for employment equality plans.
The country’s Labour Court is already handling more than hundred cases of companies under litigation.
To these 105 companies, the labour department took 72 Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed companies on review in 2017/18, for failing to adhere to their own employment equity plans, according to sources in the department.
The department issued 60-day notices to them to comply. Most responded positively, including the JSE itself.
Of the 72 firms, nine were about to be served with summons. Five of them settled out of court and each paid a fine of nearly R1.5m.
The department is preparing court cases against the remaining four companies which either didn’t have equity plans, or lied about reaching their targets.
Employers continued to ignore the 20-year-old Employment Equity Act. Department sources said this was because companies they’d taken to court, including local and international ones listed on the JSE, had in the past received minimal fines – ranging from R20 000 to R500 000.
The act allows for a maximum penalty of R1.5m.
The sources blamed Labour Court judges for not imposing the maximum, saying this allowed a vicious cycle of non-compliance to continue.
“Some employers even pay these minimal fines from their own pockets. They’ve got nothing to lose. They would argue that by paying the maximum fine, jobs would be lost, but that’s not the issue,” said one.
“They ignore transformation, knowing that they will get away with paying small fines. Courts are not serious about transformation. They are failing us.”
Since the maximum fine permissible was increased from R500 000 to R1.5m in 2014, the courts had not imposed it, the source said.
Another source said employers were lying in their paperwork.
“Those that submit reports saying they are complying, get exposed during inspections because that’s when it is found out that they just ticked the boxes, but there are no actual changes on the ground.
“They submit reports that are misrepresenting what is happening at the workplace. When it is requested that they provide details of the people they claim to have employed, that information is not forthcoming.”
The department was taking action against both private companies and public sector institutions for suspected non-compliance.
One of the organisations being taken to court for allegedly not having an employment equity plan is the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).