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Friday, September 25, 2020
16.1 C

    Solidarity on action plan

    On Thursday thousands of Sasol employees in Secunda went on strike and made their voices heard in protest against Sasol’s Khanyisa share scheme that excludes white workers simply because of their race.
    Preparations started very early on Thursday morning. When the Bulletin arrived at 05H04 the area was a hive of activity. Banners were being placed along the road, Gazebos were being erected and barrier tape strung.
    There was orange everywhere. 3500 caps were distributed during the morning but not everybody received one as the number of protestors were far more than caps available. The sea of orange steadily grew as the solidarity participant numbers swelled.
    “Some media mistakenly reported that this was a white worker strike but it is a strike against what is wrong and what is right,” said Solidarity Chief Executive Dirk Hermann in an early morning interview with the Bulletin, “Sasol has moved from including white workers to one that excludes white workers.”
    According to Hermann, these workers made their voices heard today by taking a stand. “What Sasol is doing is unfair to workers who helped build the company and who have been loyal and faithful workers throughout the years. Today, thousands of workers taking part in this strike said: Enough is enough,” Hermann said.
    According to Hermann, the community also turned up in large numbers and joined the strikers in order to show their support for the workers and to add their voices to the protest action. “Workers have reason to be angry for being excluded by Sasol because of a principle exclusively based on race and they are prepared to make their voices heard for what they believe is right and fair,” Hermann said.
    “The fact that the community and everyone affected by this unfair situation is taking a stand for what they believe is right, is incredibly encouraging. It shows that this is an involved community prepared to take a stand as well. Their actions encourage and energise us,” Hermann said.
    Some of the Solidarity members’ black co-workers chose to show their support and attended the strike. Solidarity member Thabo Lucas Lekoloane said the following: “a piano has both black and white keys, you need both to have good harmony. If you only play one then the music will be false.”
    International news agencies Al Jazeera and the BBC has also picked up on the exclusion of white workers based on their race and have reported on the situation on their worldwide platforms.
    Solidarity members handed 350 memorandums on Wednesday 5 September, to companies across the country in a show of support of the Sasol workers.
    “Sasol let the transformation pendulum swing too far. Sasol’s policy has developed into one of unadulterated racial exclusion. The Sasol employees’ actions are making history. They will once again bring a balance to the transformation debate in South Africa,” Hermann said.
    Friday 7 September saw a new turn of events in Solidarity’s strike at Sasol when the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) addressed a letter to Solidarity and Sasol in which it offers its assistance to defuse Solidarity’s strike at Sasol. This step is taken in terms of section 150 of the Labour Relations Act. Solidarity has since formally informed the CCMA that the trade union would participate in the process. This step comes after thousands of workers participated in a protest march on Thursday, 6 September, outside Sasol-Secunda as part of full-scale strike action.
    In its letter, the CCMA indicated that it would appoint a special commissioner to assist the parties. The CCMA also referred to its excellent track record in resolving disputes by means of the section 150 process.
    According to Hermann, the CCMA’s request comes as a surprise but is welcomed. “A dispute can only be resolved around the negotiating table. The parties must find a solution for the sake of everyone in South Africa and we welcome the CCMA’s endeavours to become involved in finding a solution. In the past, we have had positive experiences with similar processes at the CCMA. The CCMA has also confirmed telephonically that at least one senior commissioner, but probably two, would be assigned to the process.Transformation disputes where race plays a major role, are per definition divisive and detrimental to South Africa if prolonged for too long. If Sasol and Solidarity can find a solution to the dispute, it will not only be good for Sasol; it will also be a positive example for South Africa. However, we have not yet received any indication whether Sasol will participate in the process,” Hermann said.
    Solidarity launched a go-slow strike at Sasol on Monday because of the company’s employee share scheme, Khanyisa, that excludes white employees. It is the first time in South Africa’s history that white employees go on strike because of racial exclusion. Meanwhile, Solidarity is continuing with its strike. The trade union has plans in place for at least three weeks of strike action and they plan to file a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission early next week about Sasol’s exclusion based on race. Solidarity will also approach the Labour Court in Johannesburg this week to obtain permission for all its members across South Africa to go on strike in solidarity with the Sasol members. The court application follows after Nedlac’s (National Economic Development and Labour Council – South Africa) rejection of Solidarity’s earlier application.
    Sasol responded with their own press release:
    On Thursday 6 September, Solidarity handed over another memorandum to members of Sasol’s management in Secunda, where several hundred members gathered outside our Secunda Operations.
    With today’s demonstration, there was a temporary decrease in attendance by Solidarity members at our Secunda Operations. As a result, some of today’s planned activities were impacted. However, as previously stated, our contingency measures remain in place to minimise impact on our operations.
    Our priority is ensuring that all personnel are engaged to ensure safe and ongoing operations.
    As previously stated, parts of our Secunda and Sasolburg Operations are busy with planned maintenance shutdowns and activities in this respect continue. Planning for these shutdowns is an ongoing annual process.
    Our operations that are not part of the annual maintenance shutdown are also continuing as planned.
    We continue to monitor the situation. Sasol remains committed to open and honest engagement with all our trade union partners and our employees.
    Solidarity originally declared a dispute against Sasol in January 2018, objecting to the exclusion of White employees from Sasol Khanyisa Phase 2. After a second round of CCMA discussions, the CCMA issued a certificate of non-resolution in May 2018 after not being able to reach common ground. A certificate of non-resolution does not imply that Solidarity is correct or that Sasol is wrong, it means that the parties could not find any middle ground, and gives permission to Solidarity to withdraw labour and protest in a safe manner. We value Solidarity’s relationship with Sasol and will ensure that we keep the lines of communication open between us.
    Sasol Khanyisa Context
    On 1 June 2018, Sasol Limited officially launched Sasol Khanyisa after having received shareholder approval on 17 November 2017. Our intention is to create meaningful financial benefits for approximately 230 000 Black public shareholders and qualifying employees and to achieve 25% direct and indirect Black ownership of Sasol South Africa Limited (SSA).
    We are aware of negative reports and sentiment expressed from various quarters of society against Sasol Khanyisa. These reports are largely premised on a misunderstanding of elements of the transaction pertaining to employee participation.
    Qualifying Criteria
    Employee participants in Sasol Khanyisa Phase 1 are ALL permanent Sasol employees, regardless of race, tenure or seniority, who were participants of Sasol Inzalo and still actively employed on 1 June 2018. Phase 2 of Sasol Khanyisa is extended to our Black permanent employees (African, Indian, Coloured), as defined by the DTI Codes of Good Practice.
    Qualifying employees in Sasol Khanyisa will receive equal shareholding across the organisation. The qualifying criteria for employees are as follows:
    Phase 1:
    All Sasol employees who participated in the Sasol Inzalo Employee Scheme, and who were permanently employed on 1 June 2018, will participate in Phase 1 and are eligible for R100 000 worth of Sasol Ordinary shares, or Sasol BEE Ordinary Shares which will vest in 2021.
    There were 6 313 White employees and 11 962 Black employees in this Phase at the start of the transaction.
    Phase 2:
    All Black employees who were permanently employed on 1 June 2018, participated in Phase 2 and are eligible for 1 240 Sasol Khanyisa rights to shares which will vest in June 2028 or the earlier of settlement of funding obligations. This means that the rights to shares are fully funded through notional vendor financing and any dividends declared over the next 10 years will be used to service the funding obligations and create net value at the end of the empowerment period for participants. There were 18 282 Black employees in Phase 2 at the start of the transaction.
    Sasol’s Transformation Journey
    Transformation, in the form of share ownership in Sasol South Africa by previously disadvantaged groups, is an important business, social and moral imperative for Sasol.
    Sasol Khanyisa is not part of Sasol’s Employee remuneration or benefit structures. It was specifically designed to address the ownership component of the B-BBEE Codes and therefore Sasol Khanyisa primarily focuses on the inclusion of Black employees and public shareholders.

    Solidarity on action plan