White Sasol employees prepare to strike because of 'exclusion based on race'

According to trade union, Solidarity, of 83% of its members at Sasol in Secunda voted in favour of a strike in reaction to the company’s exclusion of white employees.

A file picture shows the logo of Sasol at its headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - White employees at energy and chemical company Sasol are preparing to go on strike due to what they call exclusion based on race.

According to trade union, Solidarity, of 83% of its members at Sasol in Secunda voted in favour of a strike in reaction to the company’s exclusion of white employees. Tomorrow, Solidarity members at the Sasolburg plants will get the opportunity to exercise their strike vote.

"It will be the first time in South African history that white employees would go on strike because of exclusion based on race. In addition to the strike, Solidarity is also planning a national protest which people from all over the country can join," the union says.

“We are going to launch a massive campaign by way of which people will be able to show their support to the Sasol employees. A special page has been created on www.solidarity.co.za where people can support those workers," says to Solidarity Chief Executive Dirk Hermann.

"Support for the strike has been overwhelming, which is indicative of the levels of frustration that are prevailing among our members. Sasol has simply gone too far. The rule that applies to employee share ownership plans at other companies, especially in the mining industry, is that it includes all employees, regardless of race. The underlying message that we are getting from our members’ response is that enough is enough!

The bone of contention is Sasol's newly-announced empowerment scheme, known as Khanyisa, in terms of which its black employees will get shares worth R500,000. Khanyisa succeeds the Inzalo Scheme.

“In practice, this means that a white Sasol employee with 30 years’ service at Sasol won’t receive any benefit, but an employee that has been in Sasol’s employ for three months will receive R500,000. Employees doing the same job will receive different benefits. This decision by Sasol will divide employees into racial camps and increase
racial tension, Hermann says.

Solidarity says the draft mining charter recently published for comment in the Government Gazette makes it clear that an employee share ownership plan should be inclusive and may not divide workers on the basis of race.

“Sasol’s scheme is in direct conflict with the mining charter and the practice in the industry. This scheme is an inflexible scheme only aimed at scoring B-BBEE points. It is not about empowerment of the workers; it is about the commercial value of a scorecard,” Hermann says.