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Employment Equity Act

Bruniquel Bulletin #6
Isn’t it time to reassess the impact of this legislation?

Twenty years ago I was asked to help a Swaziland company who were experiencing labour problems. At the first meeting with management I was surprised to learn that there was only one Swazi (Black) manager. The rest were White ex-patriates, mostly British and South African. Amongst others, one of the underlying causes of the strike was the company’s use of ex-patriates in senior jobs.

I was able to assist the Company with a number of initiatives, including a training initiative. This has stood the Company in good stead because last year we were called in to do an employee engagement audit and following that, to assist the Company to update their HR policies and develop a holistic HR/IR strategy.

Real transformation

What really struck me was that 20 years later, in the same company, all the managers were Swazis. The only whites were the MD and FD. This is pretty much the same in other Swaziland companies. There are now very few ex-patriates. Most jobs are done by Swazi nationals and the companies are just as profitable as they ever were!

Contrast this with South Africa where we have the Employment Equity Act and B-BBEE Act aimed at transforming the workplace and yet there is still unhappiness about the rate of transformation. Swaziland has an Industrial Relations Act which is based on our Labour Relations Act and which prevents arbitrary dismissals.

Another thing that strikes one when doing business in Swaziland is the skills and intellect of the managers. Most have a university education with many of them having studied and worked overseas. This is reflected in their thinking.

Ex-patriates 

20 years ago both Swaziland and Botswana, were short of skilled personnel, they allowed employers to bring in ex-patriates on contract, subject to the condition that locals were trained to replace them. At the end of the fixed term contract, the employer could re-apply to re-employ an ex-pat but the employer would have to prove that it had a proper training programme in place to train locals.

Added to this, both countries offered bursaries to promising students to study overseas. This has had two impacts. Firstly, the standard of education offered by places like Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge are superior to anything the local universities have to offer. And secondly, overseas travel is an education in itself. Students get to see a different way of life and take on different paradigms on the world.

One engineer can create a hundred jobs

One engineer can create a hundred jobs but can a vacancy in the Department of Works for an engineer create anything?! We need to seriously review our immigration laws and allow employers to bring in people with scarce skills – but with conditions.

The secret to transformation is proper training and development, not restrictive legislation. Apart from creating jobs for inspectors, the EEA and B-BBEE have not added value. In fact the opposite is true. In many cases they have led to ‘fronting’ and various forms of corruption.

The good news

We need to review our labour legislation and start again if we want peace, prosperity and real transformation. The good news is that the South African Board of Personnel Practice (SABPP) has embarked upon an initiative to improve the standards of Human Resource Management in South Africa.

HR standards have been determined and rolled out to the HR profession who has endorsed them. The next step will be for employers to be audited against those standards. The standards cover aspects such as Strategic HR Management, Talent Management, Workforce Planning, Learning & Development and Performance Management.

This will reveal where changes are required and as a consequence, initiate a programme of corrective action to address shortfalls. This should result in real positive transformation of our workplaces and we at B&A will do all in our power to support the initiative.

For more on Employment Equity have a look at the Renate Barnard case here.

Bruno Bruniquel