Solidarity, Sasol wait on Mining Charter for clarity

The dispute between Sasol and Solidarity arose at the beginning of this year over Sasol’s latest broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) scheme. (AFP)

The dispute between Sasol and Solidarity arose at the beginning of this year over Sasol’s latest broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) scheme. (AFP)

Trade union Solidarity is set to continue its strike at petrochemical company Sasol after it was unable to reach a resolution at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The meeting has since been deferred to October 3 as Sasol and Solidarity awaits clarity on the working in the draft mining charter which is currently before Cabinet.

The dispute arose at the beginning of this year over Sasol’s latest broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) scheme.

Sasol Khanyisa was launched in June this year, following the approval of Sasol’s shareholders last November. The share scheme is intended to financially benefit 230 000 black public shareholders and black permanent employees financially.

Khanyisa also aims to have 25% of Sasol South Africa Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sasol, under direct, and indirect, black ownership.

Solidarity received permission to strike in May following two failed negotiations with Sasol.
It has been on a go-slow for the last two-and-a-half weeks. The trade union said on Wednesday that it has slowed production at Sasol’s Secunda and Sasolburg plants by 96 hours.

The two operations supply most of the fuel in Gauteng, the northern Free State, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Gauteng accounts for 60% of the national fuel demand, consuming 15-billion litres a year.

This past weekend, several Solidarity employees did not report in at Sasol, Alex Anderson, the head of Sasol’s group media relations, said the plant “activated contingency plans to minimise potential interruption to those particular activities”.

A demonstration at Secunda operations on September 6 led to a delay in some of Secunda’s operations as some Solidarity workers had not arrived for their shift, Anderson explained.

“We continue to ensure that our running operations and shutdown schedule progress safely, as planned, while closely monitoring the situation,” Anderson maintained.

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Sasol insists that its B-BBEE scheme is designed to “bring about a more inclusive economy by affording an opportunity specifically to previously disadvantaged groups.”

“It was specifically designed to address the ownership component of the B-BBEE Codes” said Anderson.

“Therefore Sasol Khanyisa primarily focuses on the inclusion of Black employees and public shareholders.

Solidarity’s leader Dirk Hermann disagrees: “South Africa should not settle for simplistic solutions such as racial exclusion for complex problems.”

“Mining Charter negotiations took years to complete and it involved business, government, trade unions and local communities,” Hermann added. “Through its Khanyisa Plan, Sasol wishes to contravene the agreement reached between these parties.

“The point of departure during the charter negotiations was that workers are workers and that they should not be divided on the basis of race. What Sasol is doing now is the complete opposite, namely to cause major racial tension and division,” Hermann continued.

Last week, the Johannesburg high court dismissed the National Economic Development and Labour Council’s (Nedlac) decision to reject Solidarity’s application for a nationwide strike.

The date of the one-day strike, involving all 180 000 Solidarity members, has not been announced yet. Hermann did confirm that Solidarity would appear before Nedlac this Friday, and pending this discussion a date for the strike may be announced.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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