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South Africa pushes to end discrimination on the job

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The South African government has introduced legislation in the all-white Parliament that could lead to radical labor reforms. It explicity prohibits discrimination against workers on the basis of sex, race, or color.

The highly critical main opposition party in Parliament, the Progressive Federal Party, says the proposals should change "the entire working pattern" in South Africa. It also says the Cabinet minister responsible for the new laws, the tall, rather ponderous minister of manpower utilization, S. P. "Fanie" Botha , is "courageous" to introduce them.

While the new labor legislation amounts to a radical contradiction of orthodox apartheid, the government shows no signs of easing its rigid stance on what it regards as illegal migrants in white urban areas. South African police raided a black squatter camp near Cape Town Aug. 11 and torched it hours before it was to be visited by an American congressional delegation.

At the same time the proposed labor reforms are a striking contrast to the seemingly dead-end debate in Parliament last week during which Prime Minister Pieter Botha and his colleagues backed hard-line apartheid, a policy of forced social, economic, and political racial segregation.

The new legislation throws out moldy books of old laws that placed restrictions specifically on black workers, and that provided for arbitrary government controls and little freedom of association or proper free-market bargaining opportunities.

Instead, the blacks are now being given the same rights as whites to be full-fledged members of trade unions. This applies also to black migrant workers, something that was strenuously opposed by some white conservatives at first.

All reference to race--which was cardinal in earlier legislation--is studiously eliminated in regulations that will now govern bargaining procedures, registration of unions, and procedures for settling strikes and other disputes.


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