This is the message from trade union Solidarity who has written a letter to Unisa and the Department of Labour to express its discontent with this institution’s proposed ad hominem criteria for various faculties, as well as with Unisa’s affirmative action plan, demanding that Unisa’s senate revoke and revisit the criteria to produce a more equitable outcome. Solidarity also requested the Department of Labour to revise Unisa’s affirmative action plan.
Annika Labuschagne of Solidarity’s Centre for Fair Labour Practices explains: “In the letter two aspects are identified which are, in our opinion, unfair and contrary to the objectives and provisions in the Employment Equity Act. In the first place, it is our contention that different criteria are proposed for different groups. The reason Unisa gives for doing so is to achieve the objectives set in its affirmative action plan with the ultimate goal of having Unisa’s workforce reflect the national economic active population (EAP). The criteria, as proposed, can create possible absolute barriers for individuals not belonging to the designated group. Secondly, we argue that the use of the NEAP figures is irrational for such a specialised field and that a more equitable outcome would be achieved if the candidates’ demographics are considered.”
Quality of education
Solidarity also expressed concern over the impact such criteria will have on the quality of education offered at Unisa. “It is clear that two different sets of criteria exist for people from different groups. For example, if a person in the Law Faculty belongs to the non-designated group or to a designated group that is over-represented, this person must have at least a master’s degree to be promoted to senior lecturer. However, those in the underrepresented group only needs an LLB degree or NQF Level 8 to be eligible for such promotion. The impact of this adjustment to the quality of teaching at Unisa is cause for concern, especially since Unisa’s LLB accreditation was under threat recently,” Labuschagne said.
Solidarity insists that Unisa and the department should comply with its demands as soon as possible, and Solidarity undertakes to take all legal steps at its disposal if this does not happen. “The problem with absolute barriers and the unreasonable application of national demographic figures goes beyond Unisa. Therefore, we hope that the university and the department will both step in to establish a fairer application. If this does not happen, we will be ready to take legal action and to act on behalf of our members at Unisa and elsewhere,” Labuschagne concluded.