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Saturday, September 26, 2020
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Secunda
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    Sasol is under increasing pressure from Solidarity

    “The Sasol workers are symbolising something so many Solidarity members are experiencing,”

    On Friday the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg granted Solidarity’s application in terms of section 77 of the Labour Relations Act, ruling that the National Economic Development Council (Nedlac) must revise its initial decision to reject Solidarity’s application.
    This ruling means that Nedlac must now reconsider Solidarity’s section 77 application so that all of the trade union’s members at all places of work may lawfully participate in protest action in solidarity with the Sasol strikers and against the exclusion of races in employee share ownership plans.
    Solidarity Chief Executive Dr Dirk Hermann said in reaction to the favourable ruling that frustration with the exclusion of races goes beyond just Sasol. “The Sasol workers are symbolising something so many Solidarity members are experiencing,” Hermann explained.
    Continuing, Hermann said: “We are planning a huge protest action to support Sasol members and to protest racial exclusion. It will be a historical protest expressing a voice not heard before.”
    The date of the strike will be announced as soon as the Nedlac process has been finalised.
    In further developments in the ongoing strike, Sasol’s Sasolburg plant experienced chaos as Solidarity shifted their focus to the Sasolburg plant. By rights, a steam plant at Sasol 1 should have been shut down on Saturday morning as striking workers were not going to report for the day shift. Solidarity members, who had been on duty for the night shift on Friday night, had offered to work longer on Saturday morning to ensure the safe shutdown of the plant.
    However, Sasol decided to keep the plant in question operational, running it with staff who do not have the necessary clearances and certifications to work on the plant. This, of course, gave rise to major concerns about the safety of employees on the plant. The decision to keep the plant running with the services of employees who are not duly qualified to do so is reckless.
    Meanwhile, Solidarity has directed a letter to the Department of Labour to bring Sasol’s course of action to the department’s attention and to express its concern about management’s decision that could compromise the safety of employees.
    Moreover, Solidarity’s members also had to endure victimisation and threats from, among others, management and this while the employees in question are participating in lawful labour action. According to Solidarity Deputy General Secretary Deon Reyneke, Solidarity also indicated in a letter to the company that management would be held liable should their course of action bear any negative consequences or any loss whatsoever.
    According to Reyneke, the plant is now run by persons who had last worked at Steam Station-1 ten years ago. “At the moment, there is no one on the plant who is certified as competent to work there with the exception of a foreman who was brought in as a contractor to work on the night shift on Saturday. At the moment, Sasol’s action is far from responsible and the plant is being operated unlawfully,” Reyneke said.
    Trade union Solidarity has accused Sasol of compromising safety by making workers who are not properly trained to replace its striking members at the Sasolburg plant.
    The union said in a statement Sasol was running the Sasolburg plant with staff who “do not have the necessary clearances and certifications” – causing concern over the safety of employees.
    “The decision to keep the plant running with the services of employees who are not duly qualified to do so, is reckless,” said the union.
    In further developments, the National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry has withdrawn Sasol’s variation licence – for employees to work overtime – due to health and safety concerns.
    According to the letter by the Bargaining Council to Sasol on Monday, which Fin24 has seen, the company’s variation licence GP 11/17 is suspended with immediate effect.
    The Bargaining Council received several complaints by trade union Solidarity of unsafe operating conditions at the chemical company’s Sasolburg operations. The licence was granted to Sasol by the Council on October 23 for 12 months and could be withdrawn at any time, at its discretion.
    Overtime to affect shutdown?
    The union wrote several letters to the Bargaining Council complaining of “unsafe conditions” at Sasolburg during the strike and questioned whether workers were informed of their rights to withdraw from unsafe working conditions, afforded rest periods and training.
    Solidarity’s chemical sector coordinator and Bargaining Council Chairperson Gerhard Cloete questioned whether Sasol will be able to continue with its scheduled shutdown programme after the licence for overtime have been suspended.
    According to the Council, the suspension will remain in place, pending the resolution of the health and safety contraventions at the Sasolburg operations and the matter will be addressed by the organisation’s Operations Committee “as a matter of urgency”.
    Meanwhile, on Monday, Solidarity again applied for permission to embark on a one-day sympathy nationwide strike to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) after the high court ruled in the union’s favour on Friday.
    Solidarity is on strike in response to Sasol’s employee share ownership plan that excludes white workers. The strike is now in its third week.
    Solidarity also published reports from Sasol showing that Sasol’s maintenance schedule at Secunda was falling behind exponentially because of the trade union strike. On 11 September, the maintenance schedule at the Secunda plant was already 24 hours behind schedule, on 12 September it was 48 hours behind and on 13 September already 72 hours behind.

    Sasol is under increasing pressure from Solidarity