Affirmative action: Reality of our time
By law, affirmative action applies to all employers with more than 50 employees in their service. Affirmative action affects the appointment and promotion of employees insofar as legislation relating to affirmative action gives precedence to members of the designated group. Consequently, persons from the non-designated group, namely white men, are disadvantaged by affirmative action.
However, the reality is that the way in which the SAPS implements affirmative action also has negative consequences for all minority groups due to the fact that the SAPS and recognised trade unions within the police want to see to it that the SAPS reflect the national demography of the country. According to the principle of “absolute” representivity, each job level has to be representative as follows: 79% black; 8,8% coloured; 2,3% Indian and 9,3% white. These percentages of representivity must also be achieved in each province with a further direct impact on the coloured community in the Western Cape and the Indian community in KwaZulu-Natal.
Recent promotions of persons to the new ranks of lieutenant, captain and major provide a telling example of how the SAPS apply this principle of “absolute” representivity. Collective Agreement 2/2011 makes allowance to promote persons with minimal years of service in a specific rank (from as little as five to eight years) at the expense of persons with 17 and 18 years’ service in the same rank based solely on the fact that the former belong to the majority group.
Solidarity is actively engaged in curbing this practice of absolute representivity and the unfair implementation of affirmative action. To be able to do so efficiently we need your help though! The more members we as Solidarity represent in the SAPS, the stronger our bargaining power becomes and the greater our right becomes to represent and protect you as our member.
Affirmative action: thorn in the flesh of SAPS employees
In recent years, Solidarity has become increasingly aware of the enormous flaws in the SAPS’s implementation of affirmative action. This is also evident from the fact that during the past four years Solidarity has brought 21 lawsuits on behalf of 27 of its members against the SAPS alone.
One of these clearly shows up the flaws in the SAPS’s 2010–2014 affirmative action plan. Solidarity found that the SAPS’s affirmative action plan is nothing but a quota system and besides, it doesn’t comply with the requirements prescribed by the Employment Equity Act in this regard.
Time after time, Solidarity has indicated during media interviews and on other occasions that it is not opposed to affirmative action per se. “Rather, it is the unfairness that so often accompanies the flawed implementation of it that we oppose,” Dirk Groenewald, Head of Solidarity’s Centre for Fair Labour Practices, explains.
Groenewald mentions that as a consequence of the police’s erroneous implementation of affirmative action, competent and suitable candidates are time and again denied appointment or promotion based on their race. The posts are then left vacant to be filled by a suitable candidate from the designated group at a later stage. “This means that key positions to provide essential services to the public remain vacant for months and years. The knock-on effect of the slavish observance of race demography in the implementation of affirmative action is therefore far-reaching and utterly detrimental to our country,” Groenewald explains.
Affirmative action in the SAPS: a clinical, mechanical and mathematical approach
It has become clear to Solidarity that the SAPS follows a mathematical approach when it comes to the implementation of affirmative action. Below follows an excerpt from evidence given in a court case which confirms this view:
The calculation used to determine the race and gender allocation was explained as follows: 19 positions on level 14 are multiplied by the national demographic figure for a specific race group e.g. 19 positions x 79% Africans = 15 of the 19 posts must be filled by Africans, then 15 x 70% = 11 positions to be filled by African males minus the current status of seven meaning there is a shortage of four African males.
For Indian females the calculation is 19 x 2,5% = 0,5 positions to be filled by Indians, then 0,5 x 30% = 0,1 Indian females and that is rounded off to zero. Of the five available positions 0,125 could go to Indians x 30% gender allocation means 0,037 could be allocated to Indian females and that is rounded to zero.
This approach doesn’t take your qualifications and experience into account, especially not if you aren’t a member of the designated race and/or gender group. The SAPS justifies this approach as it is in line with its affirmative action plan which additionally, has been approved and determined by the recognised trade unions within the SAPS.
According to those trade unions, the SAPS’s affirmative action plan is a collective agreement which is implemented by virtue of the consent of the recognised unions in the police service. More than once, those trade unions have approached the courts to defend the SAPS’s affirmative action practices – at the expense of an employee.
Solidarity says “no” to unfair discrimination on your behalf
- Listed below are some typical examples of lawsuits Solidarity has already brought or is still contesting on behalf of SAPS members to contest the SAPS’s affirmative action practices:
- One of these practices concerns a situation where a person, who was recommended for a specific position within the SAPS, is not appointed simply because of his or her race and/or gender. The position is then withdrawn and re-advertised. The well-known Renate Barnard court case is a prime example. In this case, the Supreme Court of Appeal found in favour of Solidarity and confirmed that this practice was not consistent with the aims and objectives of the Constitution and/or the Employment Equity Act. Solidarity is currently contesting 15 similar lawsuits.
- Then there is the practice where an SAPS employee is recommended as the best candidate for a position but is then replaced by a person of another race and/or gender. The reason given for such a step is then simply that the race group to which the original appointee belongs is over-represented in a specific region. The person who is eventually appointed has less experience and possesses less desirable qualifications than the original appointee who was denied appointment because of his or her race.
- In terms of another practice, posts are reserved for a specific race and gender group and shortlists are compiled accordingly. The most suitable candidates are simply not even invited for an interview just because of their race and gender.
- A transfer is not approved due to the fact that it would impact negatively on the other province’s “representivity”.
Solidarity’s opinion about the SAPS’s affirmative action plan
We hold that the view of the SAPS and most of the recognised trade unions within the SAPS on affirmative action is not in line with relevant legislation. We have therefore submitted a written request to National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, requesting that Solidarity be allowed to officially participate in negotiations on the SAPS’s new affirmative action plan. Should our request simply be turned down, we will approach the court for a court order to be made party to consultations on the content and implementation of the SAPS’s new affirmative action plan.
Solidarity offers you your only chance against unfair discrimination in the SAPS! Join us today still and empower us to fight for your rights in the workplace!
Solidarity takes your unique rights as an SAPS member into account. Let us protect you!
Ask yourself the following questions, and if your answer to any of these is “yes” then now is the perfect time to join Solidarity!
- Was your recent application for a more senior position in the SAPS unsuccessful?
- Does your current union protect you against the unfair implementation of affirmative action?
- Does your current union cover your legal costs should you file a case of unfair discrimination against your employer?
- Does your union understand your unique needs and anxieties as a white employee in South Africa?