SECUNDA – Thousands of people striked in front of Sasol’s main gate, Charlie 1, on Thursday, 6 September when the town came to a standstill.
The entrance was later closed.
This strike was planned by the trade union Solidarity in protest against Sasol’s latest share scheme, Khanyisa, that excludes white Sasol employees.
Dr Dirk Hermann, chief executive of Solidarity, said these workers made their voices heard and took a stand.
The workers, their families and the community gathered at the gate and the strike was kicked off with a prayer.
Sasol employees in Sasolburg gathered at their Sasol plant on 5 September where Dr Hermann handed over a memorandum to Sasol in Sasolburg and various other companies.
Altogether 350 memorandums were handed over.
Mr Flip Buys, chairman of Solidarity, addressed the Secunda crowd, as did Dr Hermann.
“It is not your fault that you are sitting here today, it is Sasol that is excluding you,” said Mr Buys.
“I cannot believe that Sasol wants to treat you like second-class workers but they expect first-class work.
“Sasol always said they see all their workers as a team, but now that is not the case.
“You have lived for your jobs and given everything to this company.
“Our children cannot be held responsible for things that happened before they were even born.”
Dr Hermann said there is a time to stand up for your pride and that the workers did not only stand up for their own pride, but also for the pride of their children.
“When I spoke to many of you and asked you what you wanted, you said you wanted to be heard,” said Dr Hermann.
“The people in Sasolburg said yesterday they were tired of being excluded based on their race.
“Today you are standing up for many other people as well.
“We have a few black members at Solidarity as well and one of them said he is not allowed to let his wife inherit his Khanyisa shares because she is white.
“That is what happens when you classify people according to their race.
“What Sasol is doing is unfair to workers who helped to build the company and who have been loyal and faithful workers throughout the years.
“Workers have reason to be angry for being excluded by Sasol because of a principle that is exclusively based on race, and they are prepared to make their voices heard for what they believe is right and fair.
“The fact that the community and everyone affected by this unfair situation are taking a stand for what they believe is right, is incredibly encouraging.
“It shows that this is an involved community that is prepared to take a stand as well.
“Their actions encourage and energise us.”
According to Dr Hermann, Solidarity’s goal was to delay Sasol’s maintenance project (shut down) that has been scheduled to run over three weeks.
“Every hour that we slow down the project costs Sasol millions of rand and according to our information, we have already delayed the overall project by more than two days.”
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) addressed letters to Solidarity and Sasol in which they offered to defuse Solidarity’s strike at Sasol.
“This step is taken in terms of Section 150 of the Labour Relations Act,” said Dr Hermann.
“Solidarity has since formally informed the CCMA that the trade union would take part in the process.”
According to Dr Hermann, the CCMA indicated in the letter that it would appoint a special commissioner to help the parties.
“The CCMA referred to its excellent track record in resolving disputes by means of the Section 150 process.
“This letter came as a surprise and it is welcome.
“A dispute can only be resolved around the negotiating table and the parties must find a solution for the sake of everyone in South Africa.
“We welcome the CCMA’s endeavours to become involved in finding a solution.
“We have had positive experiences with similar processes at the CCMA.
“Transformation disputes where race plays a major role, as per definition, is divisive and detrimental to South Africa if prolonged for too long.
“If Sasol and Solidarity can find a solution in this dispute, it will not only be good for Sasol, but it will also be a positive example for South Africa.
“However, we have not yet received any indication whether Sasol will take part in the process.”
According to Dr Hermann, Solidarity will continue with its slow strike and have plans in place for at least three weeks of strike action.
Solidarity also plans to file a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission soon and will approach the Labour Court in Johannesburg to obtain permission for all its members across South Africa to go on strike this week in solidarity with the Sasol members.
This court application follows after Nedlac’s rejection of Solidarity’s earlier application.
Mr Alex Anderson, head of Sasol’s Group Media Relations, said on 6 September after the strike by mostly white Sasol employees, that Sasol received the memorandum handed over by Solidarity and that there was a temporary decrease in attendance at Sasol by Solidarity members.
Mr Anderson said: “As a result, some of the planned activities on Thursday were impacted.
“However, our contingency measures remained in place to minimise the impact on our operations.
“Our priority is ensuring that all personnel are engaged to ensure safe and ongoing operations.
“Parts of our Secunda and Sasolburg operations are busy with planned maintenance shutdowns and activities in this respect continue.
“Planning for these shutdowns is an ongoing annual process.
“Our operations that are not part of the annual maintenance shutdown are also continuing as planned.
“We continue to monitor the situation.
“Sasol remains committed to open and honest engagement with all our trade union partners and our employees.”
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