Lonmin warns of further retrenchments

Labour unrest at Lonmin Platinum was connected to the company's contemplated restructuring, which could include retrenchments, the company has said. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Labour unrest at Lonmin Platinum was connected to the company's contemplated restructuring, which could include retrenchments, the company has said. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

"Everything is relevant," said Lonmin spokesperson Susan Vey on Wednesday. She said the restructuring had been in consideration for the past three months and that labour unrest, including the violence which left at least 40 Lonmin employees dead, was a factor.

"We had tragic events ... everything is connected," Vey said.

The company issued a notice that it was contemplating restructuring to unions on Tuesday, signed by vice-president for human capital Barnard Mokwena.
"I can confirm that we have notified the unions," he told Sapa.

The notice to unions said the number of employees who might be affected was not known at this stage. Lonmin currently employs 28 042 people. The company is at the centre of an inquiry into a shooting where 34 people died and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire on them during a strike over pay in Marikana on August 16.

It took more than a month before an agreement, brokered by religious leaders and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration brought workers, some of whom had broken away from the National Union of Mineworkers, back to their posts and got shafts running again.

Trade union Solidarity said it received the section 189 notice from Lonmin on the start of a retrenchment consultation process, dated October 30.

"Solidarity will do everything in its power to prevent retrenchments from taking place, because it is unfair for employees that did not participate or instigate the unprotected strike and unlawful protest action, to become the victims of the five weeks of workplace anarchy," spokesperson Gideon du Plessis said.

According to the notice, the company was reviewing its current operating model and contemplating restructuring Marikana operations. It needed to manage current cost pressures affecting the business. A preliminary overview indicated a need for cost savings.

Signed by Mokwena, the notice reads: "All these initiatives could result in retrenchments."

Over the next weeks, management would consult on its reasons for restructuring, and to receive input from trade unions and non-unionised employees in Patterson job grades F, E, D and C.

The company wanted to reach consensus on measures to avoid and minimise redundancy, the number of redundancies, the timing of proposed redundancies, and severance pay for employees who might be retrenched.

The alternatives of cost cutting and a moratorium on recruitment had not been enough, and any other alternatives would be considered.

"The proposed retrenchment is envisaged to be implemented during early 2013," the notice reads.

The severance package proposed was two weeks' remuneration for each year of continuous service with Lonmin Platinum.

Notice pay, accrued annual leave and any contractual entitlements would be paid out by no later than the employee's last working day, provided a medical exit exam was concluded and company assets returned.

The company proposed to offer counselling, financial planning, and other reasonable services requested.

In the last year it had retrenched three people, the company said. Du Plessis said, in response to e-mailed questions, for this restructuring "the target is management and not really our members, but we are representing most of the senior and skilled employees who are affected.

"We will get more information at the first consultation session next week. We merely believe that these employees are now innocent victims."

After the August 16 shooting, the strike at Lonmin ended after workers were granted above-average wage increases.

Under the pay agreement, the lowest underground worker would earn R9 611 (up from R8 164), a winch operator R9 883 (up from R8 931), a rock drill operator R11 078 (up from R9 063) and a production team leader R13&nbso;022 (up from R11 818). All workers were also promised a once-off R2 000 bonus. – Sapa

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