Written by Chris Spillane | From Bloomberg
Telkom SA plans to target white, male employees when making job cuts that may affect more than 2,600 managers at South Africa’s largest fixed-line phone company, according to labor unions.
The carrier will consider “employment equity” when deciding who to dismiss, according to a document two labor unions said they received from Pretoria-based Telkom this week. Employment equity is a government policy seeking to boost black participation in the workforce.
South African companies have to comply with legislation seeking to address racial inequalities that stem from apartheid rule, which ended in 1994. White males account for almost 40 percent of the senior and middle management positions that Telkom wants to reduce, while less than 9 percent of South Africa’s population is white. Solidarity, a union with close ties to the predominantly white Afrikaans community, said Telkom’s cuts may disproportionately target white workers.
“If I was a client I’d try and avoid this situation but I’m not sure that you can,” said Joe Mothibi, a labor lawyer with Norton Rose Fulbright in Johannesburg. “Any discrimination by its nature is unfair, but the question is, is it legally unfair,” he said. “It’s not unfair discrimination to pursue affirmative action measures.”
Affirmative action refers to measures that encourage companies in South Africa to hire and promote more black staff and procure more goods and services from black-owned companies. Companies aren’t required to apply such policies when cutting jobs, though some have, Mothibi said.
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