Absolute exclusion for vacancies- court will decide
Trade union Solidarity served process upon the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) on Friday and requested the court to give finality on whether or not an employer may place an absolute embargo on applications from certain racial groups for job vacancies.
This step comes after the uproar that has been raging for the past two weeks regarding vacancies that Woolworths advertised and that only black Africans may apply for. Employees of the SANBS contacted Solidarity as a consequence of the public debate over Woolworths, as the blood service is also advertising job vacancies for which only black South Africans may apply.
“The ‘Woolworths principle’, according to which people cannot apply for vacancies if they are not from a specific racial group, must be tested in court. As the blood service’s advertisements show, the Woolworths principle is not followed at Woolworths only. In the case of the blood service, we are representing two applicants,” said Dirk Hermann, Deputy Chief Executive of Solidarity.
“If our case against the blood service succeeds, we will lay down a precedent that will apply to Woolworths and all other companies that apply the principle of absolute exclusion based on race. We will probably go to court as early as next week, where we will try to obtain an interdict to prevent the SANBS from filling the vacancies while the court case is underway,” said Dirk Groenewald, Head of Solidarity’s Labour Court Division.
The blood service embarked on a space creation strategy and offered severance packages to white employees older than 55, thereby creating 13 vacancies. The blood service is now advertising these vacancies for black employees only. Two employees, Theodore Reyneke and Sanet Schönfeldt, who have worked for the SANBS for 27 and 23 years respectively, are taking their employer to court because they are not permitted to apply for these positions.
“We want to test the principle in court. We call on the public to bleed for the principle by donating blood and then voicing their objection. By no means do we want the court action to cause people to stop donating blood,” said Hermann.
There has been a great deal of controversy regarding job advertisements of Woolworths over the past two weeks, as they exclude certain racial groups. Solidarity launched a massive social media campaign against Woolworths. However, the company maintained that it was merely giving effect to what was expected of it in terms of the Employment Equity Act.
“In our opinion, the Woolworths principle of exclusion is neither morally justifiable, nor acceptable in terms of a legal principle. The blood service case will give clarity on what legal principle should be followed. The question is whether or not Woolworths will change its advertisements if the case is successful,” said Groenewald.
Statement issued by Dirk Hermann, Deputy General Secretary: Solidarity, and Dirk Groenewald, Head: Labour Court Division, Solidarity, September 16 2012