'Woolworths committed to transformation'

Woolworths says it is aware that transformation is a sensitive issue in this country.

A Woolworths store. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - National retailer Woolworths said on Wednesday it realises the issue around transformation in the workplace is a sensitive one for South Africa and for their company.

Woolworths has been criticized over the past few days after an advert emerged on its website implying that whites need not apply for some positions.

The advert caused an outcry on various social media platforms and trade union Solidarity also slammed the retail company.

University of Cape Town's Public Law Senior Lecturer Cathy Powell said the retailer is not acting in an unconstitutional manner.

"You need to deal with the reverse discrimination. It is a cost that, in a way, whites are paying, but it's not necessarily about cost. It's difficult for any one white person, but there's nothing necessarily unjust in whites having to pay it."

She said Woolworths has been transparent in its employment process.

"Ultimately the target ends up being an attempt to create a certain percentage of employment for the various race groups recognised under apartheid, which is a problematic bit, in an attempt to [rectify the adjustments] of apartheid."

Chief Operating Officer for Woolworths Sam Ngumeni said he understands that people are emotional about the transformation issue.

"It is a very sensitive issue and we've obviously asked for some guidelines. Our advice at the moment is that we are on the right track and we'll continue to operate in this manner."

He said the company is committed to the transformation of its workforce.

"There's a long and extensive process that we go through and work through the specific jobs that we identify for Employment Equity (EE) candidates, we then go through an extensive process to find those individuals and if we do not find them by a specific period we un-designate those roles, in a matter of speaking. There are specific roles in line with our EE plan that we do designate."