“I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities” – Nelson Mandela.

Could this be the turning point that guides our society and our nation towards the ideal espoused by the great Madiba himself?

In the face of proposed amendments to the Employment Equity Act and the perceived governmental encroachment into private sector affairs, opposition has been widespread. Corporations, unions, employers’ associations, political entities, and even citizen movements have risen to voice their concerns.

But it appears the initial battle has been claimed.

Following a grievance filed with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concerning the government’s intended rigorous application of Employment Equity Targets in the Private Sector, the ILO suggested the dispute be mediated by the Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Through constructive dialogue and negotiation, the parties managed to find common ground and establish a mutually agreeable resolution on the contested points.

Key highlights of the agreement include the assurance that no employee will be terminated as a consequence of a company’s racial equity program. This assuages fears of potential retrenchment and helps businesses retain their valued, experienced staff whilst striving to meet Employment Equity Targets.

Furthermore, race is not to be the sole determinant for employing or promoting personnel, revealing the first meaningful fissure in the government’s long-held BEE initiatives.

Lastly, the agreement stipulates specific circumstances under which employers may be exempt from complying with the Employment Equity targets.

The significance of this agreement is profound, as it will not simply remain a pact between the parties involved, but will be added to the Employment Equity regulations and gazetted, thus becoming mandatory for companies. The parties have concurred on this and have also agreed to have this arrangement be made an order of court.

However, this agreement does not discourage employers eager to implement affirmative action and achieve genuine equality in the workplace – a goal shared by numerous employers. Rather, it stipulates the boundaries within which this objective should be pursued, ensuring job security and preventing discrimination in striving towards this aspiration.

This pact marks the start of a tangible shift towards equal opportunities for all.

The battle for equality is far from over, with many organisations, including SOLIDARITY, still having multiple grievances and pending litigation related to this Act. But this represents an encouraging step for the South African people in their endeavour to fulfil the vision of a truly rainbow nation.

Jaundré Kruger

National Manager | Consolidated Employers’ Organisation (CEO SA)