Court turns down salary disparity complaint; dismisses racism claim




African News Agency


FIVE workers turned to the Labour Court to complain about unfair discrimination after they had a peek at a white colleague’s payslip and saw she earned more than them. The workers, employed by Makro as merchandise controllers, said they saw the payslip after their colleague, who worked in the same division as them, by mistake left it on the printer. They were bitterly unhappy. They felt that while she performed the same tasks as them, she simply earned more because she was white. They took their complaints of discrimination to management and raised a grievance over salary disparities allegedly based on race. Management denied that the disparities were based on race. It held a meeting with the workers to discuss the alleged disparities and subsequently adjusted the applicants’ (and other employees’) salaries. It told the disgruntled workers this was done in accordance with a fair process to ensure disparities were eradicated. Not satisfied, the workers turned to court. Their case was premised on the provisions of the Employment Equity Act that provides that a difference in terms and conditions of employment between employees of the same employer performing the same or substantially the same work amounts to unfair discrimination. The case was simply that a white female, who had been employed by Makro as a merchandise controller since June 2011, earned more than them. Denying this, Makro said that historically, the recruitment process included considering a candidate’s employment history and not the salary the candidate was earning at the time. It said it aimed to make an offer to a candidate attractive by increasing the candidate’s existing salary up to a maximum of 15%. In 2018, it introduced salary bands for all positions in the organisation, including the merchandise controller position. Management said it had subsequent to the introduction of salary bands adjusted the salaries of employees, including the applicants, to ensure that remuneration was at least at the middle level of the respective salary band. Acting Judge G Mthalane said it was not disputed by the applicants that their salaries had been adjusted to ensure that remuneration was at least at the middle level of the respective salary band. He added that it was common cause that there were some black employees who earned more than this white colleague. The judge concluded that the process followed by the retailer and not race was the reason for the disparity. In turning down their application, he said they did not establish discrimination.