Umzimkulu protecting jobs

2011-03-02 00:00

UMZIMKULU mill has taken every possible measure to prevent job losses following the drought-enforced closure of the mill for the 2011/12 season. The announcement follows rumours that members of staff are in danger of losing their jobs.

Dave Howells, MD of Illovo Sugar South Africa, said that while the company “shares the apprehension and fear” of its employees, it has done everything in its power to look after every staff member who was and is employed by the mill.

Howells explained the mill will not open this season due to a lack of sugarcane supply, “primarily from our growers who supply the bulk of the mill’s cane, but also from our own agricultural operations”.

He said this decision is a direct result of the severe drought experienced last year, which saw the tonnage of cane delivered to the Umzimkulu mill drop by 33% compared to the previous season. More reductions are forecast in the coming milling season, which impacts on the economic viability of the mill open.

Howells said the company will do what it could to help secure the jobs of those who work at the mill.

“Under these unwelcome circumstances ... our primary concern has been for the continued welfare of our own employees and the company has taken every possible measure to ensure that there are no job losses,” he said. He said the mill has a good track record with its employees.

“At the time of the original announcement that Umzimkulu would not operate in 2011/12, there were 252 members of staff employed at the mill,” he said. “Of this complement, not a single staff member has currently lost his or her job and neither has any staff member been put on short-time.”

Howells added that 103 of the staff members have been retained at Umzimkulu in administration, agriculture, sugar packing and other posts, while the rest have been relocated to other Illovo operations, primarily in South Africa (Sezela, Eston, Merebank, Noodsberg) but also to Illovo’s operations in other countries, such as Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.

Translocation allowances over and above existing salaries are being paid to South African-based employees to compensate them for having to relocate to other mills within Illovo South Africa.

“The consultation process with employees has been undertaken in conjunction with the mill-based shop stewards and the union leaders, who have fully endorsed our decisions and actions,” said Howells.

“Additionally, other stakeholders involved with the Umzimkulu business, including the grower leadership, have been kept appraised of developments.”

Howells stressed that an open-door policy with employees has been maintained throughout the process, and many employees have brought concerns, ideas and suggestions to the company’s attention.

“We continue to maintain a dedicated human resources facility at Umzimkulu in order to continue with this approach,” he said. “We share the apprehension and fear currently being experienced by our employees.”

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