Application of the Employment Equity Act and diversity in the mining industry
Tlhatlosi, Mannete Martha
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The global move towards human rights, the publication of King 11 reports and the post democratic legislations coerced the South African mining industry to diversify its workforce. The Employment Equity Act was the major driving force behind this, aimed at eliminating discrimination in the workplace and implementing Affirmative Action measures so that the workforce would reflect the economically active population. The question remains as to whether it could achieve a representative workforce, since the Commission of Employment Enquiry reports (2009-2010) and the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (second quarter, 2010) indicated that progress is very slow throughout all the industries. The mining industry is still predominantly White-controlled and emphasis is being placed on stimulating Black empowerment in the industry. Since the early 1990s the industry has seen significant restructuring and changes, including the phasing out of the traditional mining houses and the incorporation of the designated groups (females and Blacks) in ownership and management. However, rising gold prices and pressures on the global economy have forced the industry to embark on measures which impacted badly on the employment equity, leading to measures such as downsizing both the operations and staff, limiting training, centralising and outsourcing through contractual work. Migrant labour still plays an integral part. In order to analyse the application of Employment Equity Act and workplace diversity in the mining industry, a literature review was conducted to conceptualise the major constructs, and a survey through a close-ended questionnaire was administered to establish the progress made in this regard. The questionnaire was divided into three sections: section A was a biographical/demographic analysis focussing on the personal attributes ranging from gender, age, race, education and job grade. Section B and C were in the form of five-point likert scale to analyse the extent of understanding and knowledge, as well as attitudes and behaviour of the respondents respectively. The results were compared to secondary data in the form of reports collected from the senior metallurgy human resource manager. The convenience sample was taken from a sample of employees staying in the mining complex known as the 'Quarters', which comprised 345 houses, of which a response rate was 54%. Findings from the primary data indicated some progress in changing the organisational culture, with the majority of the respondents giving positive perceptions towards gender, disability and language used, while they identified the following as barriers (negative perceptions): lack of commitment by management; unfair labour practices in recruitment, promotions, training and development; insufficient knowledge about EEA and diversity; racial discrimination; and negative turnover intentions. They believed that diversity could improve productivity. The secondary data revealed that there was slow progress in attaining the numerical targets, especially in the D-band upwards (senior and top management levels). The females and people with disability were under-represented in all categories. The majority of employees in the skilled (C-band), semi-skilled and unskilled (B1-B7) were terminating their services. It is suggested that training of personnel about EEA and diversity be considered to get their active support and to prepare them for the change from the status-quo, extensive development of management on labour relations and good practices, as well as formation of committees to steer and monitor the adherence to policies.