Solidarity gearing up for strike over Sasol’s empowerment scheme


Solidarity is planning to go ahead with strike action against Sasol [JSE:SOL] over its new empowerment scheme, Sasol Khanyisa.

On Wednesday the union’s deputy CEO Johan Kruger confirmed to Fin24 that it is finalising the mandate for a strike against the energy and chemical company.

In June the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) issued to Solidarity a certificate of non-resolution, after having held hearings with both Solidarity and Sasol over a dispute over the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) scheme.

The certificate of resolution means that the union can embark on a protected strike, by giving Sasol 48 hours’ notice.

Kruger explained that the scheme excludes white employees, and by striking the union hopes to get Sasol to introduce a similar scheme for white employees. Sasol Khanyisa received the approval of Sasol shareholders, and Kruger said it would be complicated to get shareholders to reverse that decision.

He told Fin24 that the union has not yet decided on a date for the strike and is still ironing out details and hopes to rally the support of other members working at other companies because the matter is bigger than Sasol. He explained that the union wanted as many voices to speak out against racial exclusion. Solidarity has 6 300 members working at Sasol. 

Solidarity and Sasol had both met at the CCMA on Wednesday to establish picketing rules, but Sasol has not yet received a notice of intention to strike from Solidarity, Sasol’s head of media relations Alex Anderson confirmed in an emailed response to Fin24.

“In the meeting, Sasol presented a draft picketing agreement to Solidarity. Solidarity undertook to review the draft and revert to Sasol in due course,” Anderson said.

He added that if a strike were to take place, Sasol has contingency plans in place to make sure it does not interrupt its operations.

Anderson also said that Sasol remains committed to “open and honest” engagement with all its trade union partners and plans to engage further with Solidarity to bring their concerns to a conclusion.

Commitment to transformation

Previously Sasol said that the new B-BBEE scheme, which is not a company benefit or compensation scheme, is one of the key focus areas of the company’s broader transformation strategy.

In a note issued to employees on Wednesday, seen by Fin24, Sasol’s joint-CEOs Bongani Nqwababa and Stephen Cornell reiterated views that Khanyisa is instrumental in supporting a more inclusive economy.

The CEOs said that the previous scheme, Sasol Inzalo, did not create the value it was expected to.

“Many of our stakeholders, including our shareholders and you our employees, are angry and disappointed about this outcome.

“We too are disappointed. Inzalo has been a painful and very costly lesson for us. We have taken these lessons on board and are confident that Sasol Khanyisa will lead to long-lasting, black ownership of Sasol,” the note read.

The CEOs also acknowledged that not all employees would be participating in Sasol Khanyisa - which is Solidarity’s gripe.

“Unusual steps are required to address our unusual past. Transformation is far from complete and specifically targeting those that were previously disadvantaged remains a necessary, and regulated, objective for the country,” the CEOs said.

They also reaffirmed that Sasol’s leadership would be available to engage on the subject of transformation.

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