Solidarity confident of permission to strike after court ruling

Trade union Solidarity says it has again applied for permission to embark on a one-day sympathy strike in protest against a black economic empowerment share scheme impacting some of its members at Sasol. 

On Friday, the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled against the National Economic Development and Labour Council's (Nedlac) refusal to grant Solidarity a Section 77 Notice, and the negotiating forum will now need to review its decision.

Solidarity wants all of its 180 000 members countrywide to down tools in solidarity with those at Sasol.

Solidarity’s mostly white members have undertaken phased industrial action at Sasol since September 3 over the new Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment employee share scheme known as Khanyisa Phase 2.

According to the chemical company, Khanyisa Phase 1 is available to all permanent Sasol employees, regardless of their race, if they participated in the Inzalo Scheme and were still employed as at June 1.

Phase 2 of Khanyisa, however, is aimed only at black employees.

The parties will head to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Wednesday in a bid to break the deadlock.

Solidarity’s chief executive, Dirk Hermann, said the union was going ahead with the Nedlac strike application process, as they didn't know what the outcome of the CCMA process would be and "there’s no indication that Sasol wants to come with a new offer".

Hermann maintains that Nedlac doesn’t have any grounds to refuse their one-day strike application and the industrial action will affect 180 000 members who work in mining, telecommunications, metal engineering and Eskom.

Mining Charter twist

Hermann says the finalised Mining Charter, which will be discussed by Cabinet on Wednesday, adds a new twist to the battle over the Sasol Khanyisa scheme.

The union, which has been part of extensive discussions to revise the document, says the new legislation will stipulate that employee shared ownership schemes must be inclusive of all races.

"From Wednesday, Sasol could be on the wrong side of the mining charter," Hermann said.

Hermann added that the chemical company operates several coal mines, which will need to be aligned to the Mining Charter, and it will be difficult legally to discriminate between the two operational areas for employee benefits.

Sasol said in a statement on Sunday that they continued to ensure that their running operations and shutdown schedule would progress safely and that they were monitoring the situation ahead of the CCMA talks on Wednesday.

Nedlac spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said in a SMS to Fin24 that the organisation would abide by the court’s ruling and a way forward will be communicated after consultation with the affected stakeholders.

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