Is the composition of staff within Tygerberg administration in terms of employment equity, representative of the demographics of the Western Cape from 05/01/2000 - 31/12/2001?
Masembate, Vivienne Mtombizodwa
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The shift from an ethnocentric, monocultural society to a more inclusive and democratic society should be accompanied by a national policy providing equal access to resources in a proactive, affirmative manner. This can be achieved in one of the two ways, either through equal employment opportunity or Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action is a specific intervention directed toward ensuring that employment opportunities are created by actively correcting imbalances caused by past discrimination and achieving employment targets. Equal employment opportunity implies an absence of discrimination, whereas Affirmative Action denotes compensatory discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups. Affirmative Action is a supplement to, rather than equivalent to equal employment opportunities in that equality cannot be a genuine option where the effects of previous discriminatory practices have not been redressed. In an equal opportunities system, not all persons have the same chance of achieving the desired goal, but all are provided with equal means to achieve it. The unequal outcome of such a system is caused by the unequal skills for talents of the past discrimination, especially in terms of education and experience. All the Directors of Tygerberg Administration who responded to the questionnaires supported this and all of them agreed that training is necessary for all employees, especially the previously discriminated groups. The primary objective of Affirmative Action can therefore said to be the adequate advancement of disadvantaged groups for the purpose of securing equal rights, freedom and opportunities.Equal employment opportunity is seen as a passive agreement on the part of the employer not to discriminate against any particular group. Employers adhering to the principle of equal employment opportunity evaluates candidates for employment according to performance criteria which relates directly to the requirements of a particular position. Affirmative Action seeks to go beyond equal employment opportunity in that it recognises that, when members of disadvantaged groups constitute only a small percentage of the labour pool, passively providing equality of opportunity will not suffice in overcoming the effects of previous discriminatory employment practices. Affirmative Action employers are therefore given the mandate to identify and remove the barriers to the employment of those under-represented in the workplace. Merely removing the present obstacles to equality does not necessarily ensure equality between groups since the effects of previous discrimination need to be actively redressed. It can be noted that equal employment and Affirmative Action programmes should not be equated with each other as they imply different approaches to overcoming the effects of previous discrimination. Affirmative Action is said to be a supplement to, rather than the equivalent of equal employment opportunity, in that it is required to eliminate the barriers to real equality in the workplace. In this regard, it is essential to point out that Affirmative Action programmes are a means to an end, namely equal employment opportunity, and should not continue after this end has been achieved. Due to the similarity between the two terms, Affirmative Action and equal employment opportunity are often equated with one another when, in essence, they have different meanings. From the information gathered for this research it was clear that not many Blacks were employed in management and supervisory positions of the City of Tygerberg. The research revealed that despite adopting the Agreement on Affirmative Action and equal employment practice of the National Labour Relations Forum for Local Government as its policy framework, the Tygerberg Administration had not succeeded in meeting most of its obligations in terms of the above mentioned policy framework. This is largely ascribed to problems experienced with the implementation of equal employment and Affirmative Action programmes within the local authority. The methods of communicating these programmes to especially its lower category of disadvantaged employees to participate in training opportunities to improve their working skills, were not capitalised on. There was an unequal distribution of skills due to the effects of past discrimination, especially in terms of education. Active steps therefore need to be taken to ensure that the intentions of the local authority with repect to equal employment and Affirmative Action are implemented efficiently and effectively.