South African government mediators ruled that workers at Sasol, the world’s biggest producer of motor fuel from coal, are allowed to strike over the exclusion of white staff from a employee-shareholding plan.
Solidarity, a labour union that represents skilled, mainly white workers, registered a dispute with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, or CCMA, after Sasol introduced benefits that it said would exclude workers based on race. South African businesses have implemented plans since democratic elections in 1994 that aim to redress economic inequalities stemming from white-minority rule under apartheid.
“The commissioner ruled in our favour saying that this is a strikeable dispute,” Deon Reyneke, the deputy general secretary at Solidarity, said by phone. The matter was referred back to the CCMA for conciliation before a certificate allowing permission to hold a strike is awarded, he said.
Sasol has struggled to improve its empowerment structure since the outgoing plan, known as Inzalo, failed to pay out to more than 250 000 black South Africans who participated in the transaction after the stock was battered by a slump in crude prices. Sasol tumbled last year after the company proposed to sell about R13 billion ($1 billion) of shares to cover the debt owed by investors.
“We remain confident that we have designed the Khanyisa transaction to incorporate what we consider to be the most appropriate and best features of broad-based black economic empowerment structures,” Johannesburg-based Sasol said in an emailed response to questions. The plan “is aimed at specifically advancing the transformation of the South African economy and Sasol,” it said.
Inzalo included all employees, while the incoming plan, known as Khanyisa, will discriminate against white workers by not recognising them, according to Solidarity. Inzalo means yield in Zulu, while Khanyisa means to illuminate.