AA offenders to Face Music

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Relevant employers who have so far failed to comply with the Affirmative Action Act are expected to appear in court soon, Employment Equity Commissioner Vilbard Usiku said yesterday. Once they appear, Usiku hopes, this will send a message that the law once violated comes down with punitive measures. Failure to comply with Section 47 of the Affirmative Action Act (Employment Act) 28 of 1998 carries a fine of N$4 000 or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or both for a first offender. For the second and subsequent offences in this regard, the offender is liable to a N$100 000 fine or a five-year imprisonment term or both. A total of 213 cases of non-compliance were identified over the period 2000-2004. From these, the police laid charges concerning 155 cases, but none of them were brought before a court. According to the commission’s report of 2004/5, only 13 out of over 300 relevant employers had gone beyond the minimum requirements of the law to promote the goals of the Affirmative Action Act. The Act requires all relevant employers to develop and implement affirmative action plans to achieve a fair and representative work-force. Yesterday, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Alpheus !Naruseb announ-ced the reduction of the threshold of the relevant employers from employers recruiting 50 or more employees to employers with 25 or more workers, during which time he hinted that some companies identified as relevant employers in 1999 were still in hiding and did not submit their AA plans as required by law. “I would like to make use of this opportunity to urge those still in hibernation to start complying with the relevant law,” he said, warning that the ministry would leave no stone unturned to “identify the culprits that they are brought to book”. The reduction in the threshold comes at a time when the commission has recorded slow progress regarding the affirmation of persons in designated groups at most management and supervisory occupational levels in most industrial sectors. The threshold of 50 was gazetted in 1999 as the first phase of affirmative action implementation targeting large and medium sized employers, which has been revised after seven years to ensure that the reform in the employment sector extends further to the broad spectrum of the Namibian workforce. !Naruseb said employers who have been identified as relevant employers have 18 months from the date from which the notice was gazetted to submit their first affirmative action plan and report. The ministry reduced the threshold of the relevant employer in response to popular demand from members of the public who have been calling on the government to expand the scope of affirmative action coverage, said the minister. Although the ministry is aware of the skills shortage in Namibia, he said relevant employers should train their workers through the three-year affirmative action plan which they submit to the commission. “I want to encourage all relevant employers to put in place measures to retain and develop employees from designated groups as a focal part of their affirmative action plans,” he said, citing measures such as assessment of training needs and development of designated groups and planning appropriate training courses, support programmes for new recruits including mentorship programmes, long-term career paths and succession plans for the highly competent candidates and also incentives to encourage employees to adopt a long-term view of their career in the organisation. He assured that as soon as the skewed distribution of jobs, incomes and occupations is rectified, the need for AA law would fade away and companies could then concentrate on their core business of creating wealth and developing the country. The report indicated that the results of the year under review were unsatisfactory, with the level of progress towards a diverse, equitable and representative workforce being dismal. While progress was made in certain categories such as the previously disadvantaged men who improved their share of representation at management and supervisory positions, results of women and persons with disabilities were disturbing. Women accounted for 13 percent at executive director level and 25 percent of positions at management level, while persons with disabilities accounted for 1.8 percent of manager positions compared to previously disadvantaged men whose occupation rate at executive director positions was 31 percent and 44 percent for manager positions.

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