We’re still committed

2011-10-22 10:59

During the past week, we have been on the receiving end of a strike by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) regarding an employee share ownership plan, voluntarily offered by the company to its non-management employees.

The scheme would see these employees take up a 3% shareholding of Xstrata’s assets in South Africa, with an equivalent share in the company’s yearly profits.

This is in addition to existing, competitive remunerations.

This issue began some 15 months ago, when we offered the six unions representing our employees the opportunity to sign up to the plan on behalf of their non-management members.

This on the premise that any eventual agreement would also apply to those non-management employees who are not unionised but who fall within relevant grades.

Most of the terms were agreed on and the scheme would exist to reward employees for as long as Xstrata has operations in South Africa.

The point of disagreement arose about our proposal that individual employees’ rewards be allocated according to their level within our 14 employment grades.

This is in line with our policy of incentivising advancement and rewarding employees with greater influence over our success.

NUM rejected our offer on the basis that the scheme went against their principle of equal allocation.

Not discouraged by this obstacle while so close to final agreement, we offered to reduce the allocation categories from 14 to three – a significant compromise which addressed three key objectives: protecting equal allocation for all employees in their respective grade bands, reducing the differential between the three grades and maintaining an important principle of remuneration in our company.

This compromise was rejected out of hand. Following numerous attempts to resolve the impasse, NUM exercised its right to go on strike.

Against a backdrop of ongoing industrial action, we regretfully withdrew the offer and suspended discussions on the implementation of the scheme until striking workers returned to work.

At Xstrata, we are disappointed that such a positive scheme resulted in a dispute and a strike. We have been particularly saddened that the opportunity we had provided faced the possibility of being destroyed.

However, given the timely intervention of Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu in the interest of the parties involved and the country, there is a possibility that the matter might be resolved amicably.

We remain committed to the proposal to provide shareholding in the company to our employees.

Our commitment to South Africa is borne out by our R60 billion in investments over the last decade, and the creation of thousands of permanent jobs, and more in the future if envisaged projects are realised.

It is therefore important for all of us to realise that our collective future is far more important than the disagreements we encounter along the way.

Zibi is the corporate affairs manager of Xstrata Alloys 

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