/ 16 January 2009

De Beers in talks with unions on looming job cuts

De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM) has begun a consultation process with labour unions about possible retrenchments, the world’s largest diamond miner said on Friday.

Employees had already been briefed, the company added.

”It is with great reluctance that we take this step which we have delayed for as long as possible.

”We have started the consultation process with the unions and with government, and have begun actively engaging with all employees on ways to mitigate potential job losses,” said DBCM’s managing director David Noko.

The company would be issuing a Section 189 Notice and was engaging in a full consultation process with unions and employees.

”As a start the company will reduce all vacant positions [over 400], and take all steps possible to reduce the number of people who may be affected,” DBCM said.

Voluntary retrenchment and early retirement’s packages would be offered to moderate the impact on employees, the company added.

DBCM would only have a greater degree of certainty on the number of employees affected once formal consultations were underway at each site, the company said.

DBCM has employees on its six mining operations and in offices in Kimberley and Johannesburg.

The company has a total of 3 500 employees in South Africa.

DBCM said that since the beginning of the economic upheaval last year, the company had taken action to lessen the impact of the economic slowdown on its business, and therefore on its employees.

These initiatives included aligning work activities to demand for rough diamonds from clients; reviewing the contracts of fixed-term contractors; extending shut-down periods at the various operations; stopping overtime; placing a moratorium on recruitment; deferring capital expenditure unless absolutely essential; stopping travel unless critical and reviewing contracts with suppliers and service providers.

”Although these initiatives have made a positive contribution, the realities of the current global economic downturn continue to impact adversely on the company,” DBCM said.

However, the diamond miner said it was confident that the long-term outlook for diamonds was positive ”as there is a steady trend indicating a growing consumer demand, and a limited supply of known diamond resources available”.

It added that the global economies would recover ”and those diamonds that remain in the ground today will find a ready market in the future”. — Sapa