IDC skeletons tumble out

2009-08-22 09:00

 A BITTER feud between the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC)

and its employees over the introduction of a job-grading programme has sent

skeletons tumbling out of the state-owned ­financier’s cupboard.

Some IDC employees are accusing management of using heavy-handed

tactics, including threats of dismissal, to crush attempts to unionise the

financier’s 630-strong workforce.

This week IDC executives denied they had victimised the “ring

leaders” behind the initiative to unionise IDC staff. They also dismissed

reports that they had prevented the National Education, Health and Allied

Workers’ Union from recruiting members at the IDC’s premises in Sandton.

Several IDC insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told

City Press Business that management was wary of the union because it would

question the manner in which it was running the parastatal and the big perks its

senior executives were earning.

“They don’t want the union because it is going to question them

about their remuneration packages and some of the bad investments the IDC has

made,” one insider said.

One of the investments that have gone awry is the R200?million that

the IDC pumped into ailing gold producer Pamodzi Gold last December. The money

was gobbled up in just three months by the gold miner, which is currently

battling to pay its creditors and, as a consequence, is being liquidated.

This April the IDC fired Sleigh Hynes, a senior projects manager,

blaming him for releasing the R200 million from an escrow account into a Pamodzi

Gold account when he had no authority to do so. Ironically the IDC threw a

further R59 million at the gold producer after Hynes had left the agency.

IDC spokesperson Neo Sowazi said the second tranche of credit

funding to Pamodzi Gold was granted to save jobs, among other things.

“We had to provide the funding to maintain the jobs at the mines

and ensure that the mines are sold as a going concern,” said Sowazi.

Hynes is challenging the IDC at the Commission for Conciliation,

Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Arbitration will be in early October. Hynes

declined to comment about his dismissal.

Another investment that has come under the spotlight is the Numbi

Gate tourism project in ­Hazyview, Mpumalanga.

The IDC invested R315?million in the project but according to

insiders the project does not exist and the investment has gone down a

hole.

The IDC funds were meant to build an ecotourism complex comprising

a restaurant, craft shops, fresh produce stalls and an organic farm.

In last year’s yearly report the IDC boasts: “The project will

employ 521 permanent staff and train about 300 small-scale farming locals a year

over five years.”

Sowazi denied that the project did not exist. She said its

investors had started setting up a food-processing plant.

Eyebrows have also been raised by the staff at chief executive

Geoffrey Qhena’s remuneration package, which has leapt by 44% or R3.2?million to

R10.4?million this year from R7.2?million last year.

The view by some employees is that Qhena does not deserve such a

huge pay rise in a recessionary climate. The pay increase is also seen as

inappropriate given that the IDC is trying to trim about R200?million from its

operating costs.

Sowazi denied that the additional R3.2?million Qhena will receive

was a pay hike. She said it was a performance incentive bonus accumulated over

the last three years that Qhena was entitled to. Details of Qhena’s package will

be published in this year’s yearly report, which is coming out next month.

An anonymous document titled “As We See It – Through the eyes of

IDC employees” leaked to City Press Business criticises management’s high

lifestyle while staff functions such as year-end functions and team building

exercises have been canned to cut costs.

“However, we were surprised to note that activities and functions

that benefit management were not canned. These functions are 100 times more

expensive than all staff functions put together. These functions are the CEO’s

golf days, Nedbank Golf Challenge, Cape Town Jazz Festival and the Vodacom

Durban July Handicap.

“Millions of rands are spent on these functions as all executives,

including their special guests, receive free tickets to fly to the events. Staff

is quite unhappy about this as we have sacrificed a lot but management has not

sacrificed anything.”

Calls for the unionisation of the IDC’s employees have been

gathering momentum since May after a new job-grading system was introduced

without staff being consulted. Many employees feel that the system has demoted

them to junior positions even though they have amassed a wealth of experience

and knowledge.


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