The Cape Town Labour Court granted an urgent interdict against the Department of Correctional Services today. In terms of the interdict, the DCS may not continue to fill the position for which Solidarity member, Christo February, had applied, before the principal case which Solidarity is conducting on behalf of five DCS employees before the Cape Town Labour Court has been heard.
In his argument, Judge Robert le Grange said Solidarity had complied with all the requirements of an urgent application. The trade union had also succeeded in establishing a prima facie case for unfair discrimination. According to the judge the DCS had discriminated against Mr February on the grounds of his race, and said that nobody had been appointed or benefited. He added that the DCS wanted to achieve absolute quotas at all costs and that the Employment Equity Act did not permit this.
"We are pleased at the verdict. This is the first step to justice for the DCS employees on whose behalf we are acting. It is unfortunate that the court had to intervene to enforce such an interdict. The DCS itself should have evinced a sense of fairness; however, they have such strong feelings about the ideology of representation that they would go to court at all costs in order to defend their case," Dirk Hermann, Solidarity Deputy General Secretary, said.
At the court, Solidarity has also announced that it referred another five cases against the DCS's racial plan to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. That will bring the total number of affirmative action cases against the DCS to 10, and the total against the South African government to 31.
"We have decided to intensify the court action against the DCS. There are hundreds of people who are affected unfairly by the DCS's affirmative action plan. We foresee that all ten cases will be consolidated to make it South Africa's most extensive case yet over affirmative action," Hermann said.
"At the interdict hearing the DCS unequivocally stated that its plan was based on the absolute enforcement of the national demographics and was being enforced as such. In fact, the DCS's legal representative went as far as to say that coloured persons should relocate to other provinces to seek career promotion. In the principal case the DCS will not be able to retract this, and the court will have to rule on the validity of such a plan," Dirk Groenewald, Head of Solidarity's Labour Court Division said.
All Solidarity's cases against the DCS are focused on the Department's controversial affirmative action plan. According to the plan, the national racial demographics are to be reflected at all job levels, regardless of the profile of the province or region. The national racial demographics in the Westerns Cape of coloured employees are about 51% while the national profile is some 8,8% of the total. This means that, through affirmative action programmes, coloured persons have to be reduced from 51% in the Western Cape to approximately 8,8%, resulting in very few, if any, opportunities for promotion for coloured people in the Western Cape.
"The DCS's plan is nothing but a massive social engineering programme. In terms of the plan, people have to relocate to enjoy the rights they are entitled to. South Africans should receive the full protection of all legislation and be able to enjoy the freedom to practise their professions, without prejudice, wherever they reside," Hermann added.