Huawei to fire most of its foreign employees and replace them with South Africans

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The Department of Employment and Labour and Huawei Technologies South Africa have reached an out of court settlement, following the department’s application to the Labour Court on 11 February 2022.

The two parties met on Monday (14 March) to conclude discussions and finalise a settlement.

On 11 February, the department announced that it filed court papers against Huawei Technologies South Africa due to non-compliance with employment equity policies.

An audit conducted by the department of labour in 2020 found that 90% of Huawei’s staff in South Africa were foreign nationals. According to the department, it was the worst case of non-compliance with equity regulation it had ever encountered. Huawei did not provide any reasons for its breach, the department said.

“The department has accepted Huawei South Africa’s employment equity plan which addresses the equitable representation of South Africans to above 50% within three years, especially from designated groups as defined in the Employment Equity Act,” read a joint statement on Tuesday.

While the Chinese tech giant faced a fine of R1.5 million or 2% of the unit’s revenue, the parties did not reveal whether paying a fine was part of the agreement.

But Huawei did commit to providing digital skills to the unemployed through a development programme that will target candidates from designated groups, especially women and people from rural areas.

Participants would be sourced from the department’s database.

“The parties see this as a win-win, as it fosters a public and private partnership that facilitates the transfer of skills, while also addressing the issue of unemployment by creating jobs in the ICT sector,” says Fikiswa Bede, the chief director of statutory and advocacy services at the department.

In addition, in a joint attempt to address South Africa’s digital divide and ICT skills gap, Huawei and DoEL have agreed to collaborate on skilling the unemployed, which is an investment in youth upskilling and employment; an important pillar in achieving the country’s targets for economic growth, particularly in digital technologies.

The Development Programme, which includes internships, aligns with the duration of the employment equity plan period, and will draw on candidates from the designated groups, especially women and those from rural areas, sourced from the DoEL database.

Both the Department of Employment and Labour and Huawei have expressed mutual satisfaction with the outcome.

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