n South African Journal of Labour Relations - Affirmed identities? The experience of black middle managers dealing with affirmative action and equal opportunity policies at a South African mine




South African labour relations are currently under pressure to redress past racial inequality, as a result of the legacy of apartheid, through extensive employment equity, affirmative action and broad-based black economic empowerment initiatives. These policies and practices also influence the employment relationships in the mining sector, where specific goals for transformation are set. The aim of this study was to explore how subordinated group members - historically disadvantaged South Africans (HDSAs) - at middle management level define their identity in an environment where affirmative action and equal opportunity policies are implemented. The literature review focused on ethnic and racial identity from socio-psychological and sociological-theoretical approaches, as well as affirmative action and equal opportunity legislation and policies in South Africa. A qualitative research design was used to describe the experience of affirmative action and equal opportunity policies for black African middle managers. It focused on individual experiences and the social meaning of their racial and ethnic identity and what this entails for their attitude towards affirmative action policies. It was found that the respondents experienced stronger racial identity than ethnic identity in their working environment, which also reflected a need for policies to effectively redress past racially based discrimination. However, the respondents also reflected a need to be in a non-racial working environment where individual merits supersede racial association. Theoretical and practical contributions were made through the findings and conclusions, and some future research was proposed.


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