Press Statement dated 16 September 2018

Chaos broke out this weekend at Sasol’s plant in Sasolburg when the focus of Solidarity’s strike shifted to Sasolburg. By rights, a steam plant at Sasol 1 should have been shut down on Saturday morning as striking workers were not going to report for the day shift. Solidarity members, who had been on duty for the night shift on Friday night, had offered to work longer on Saturday morning to ensure the safe shutdown of the plant. 

However, Sasol decided to keep the plant in question operational, running it with staff who do not have the necessary clearances and certifications to work on the plant. This, of course, gave rise to major concerns about the safety of employees on the plant. The decision to keep the plant running with the services of employees who are not duly qualified to do so, is reckless. 

Meanwhile, Solidarity has directed a letter to the Department of Labour to bring Sasol’s course of action to the department’s attention and to express its concern about management’s decision that could compromise the safety of employees.

Moreover, Solidarity’s members also had to endure victimisation and threats from, among others, management and this while the employees in question are participating in lawful labour action. According to Solidarity Deputy General Secretary Deon Reyneke, Solidarity also indicated in a letter to the company that management would be held liable should their course of action bear any negative consequences or any loss whatsoever.

According to Reyneke, the plant is now run by persons who had last worked at Steam Station 1 ten years ago. “At the moment, there is no one on the plant who is certified as competent to work there with the exception of a foreman who was brought in as a contractor to work on the night shift on Saturday. At the moment, Sasol’s action is far from responsible and the plant is being operated unlawfully,” Reyneke said.

Solidarity is on strike in response to Sasol’s employee share ownership plan that excludes white workers. The strike is now in its third week.

Solidarity also published reports from Sasol showing that Sasol’s maintenance schedule at Secunda was falling behind exponentially because of the trade union strike. On 11 September, the maintenance schedule at the Secunda plant was already 24 hours behind schedule, on 12 September it was 48 hours behind and on 13 September already 72 hours behind.

“Solidarity planned this strike to the finest detail and everything is still going exactly according to plan. Sasol did not respond to our memorandum within seven days, and therefore we are escalating everything. Sasol is now beginning to experience the power of knowledge. They underestimated us,” said Solidarity Chief Executive Dr Dirk Hermann.

Sasol is engaged in a huge maintenance project stretching over three weeks, in which the total plant is shut down for the necessary maintenance and repair work. It costs Sasol several million rand for every hour the project falls behind schedule.

“The production pressure on Sasol is enormous. Solidarity’s members have strategic knowledge, therefore they have the ability to conduct this strike in a smart way. They know exactly when to exert pressure on which parts of the plants. Sasol has no choice but to return to the table,” Reyneke said.

Meanwhile, talks between the parties will begin again this coming Wednesday, under the supervision of the CCMA. This follows after the CCMA approached the parties in terms of section 150 of the Labour Relations Act to offer assistance in resolving the dispute.

Issued by Deon Reyneke, Deputy General Secretary: Solidarity