VODACOM: 11,500 0 (0.00%)
White S.African workers protest against Sasol's black share scheme
* Go-slow to become full strike on Thursday
* Union says protest is about equality, not racism
* Firms are required to increase black ownership
* Union to file protest in U.S.; share price down 1.1
(Adds Sasol maintenance shutdowns, similar empowerment schemes)
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Workers from South Africa's
mainly-white Solidarity union staged a go-slow protest at the
petrochemicals firm Sasol on Monday over a share scheme
offered exclusively to black staff, and said they would begin a
full strike on Thursday.
South African companies are required to meet quotas on black
ownership, employment and procurement as part of a drive to
reverse decades of exclusion under apartheid. Meeting the rules
makes a company more likely to qualify for government tenders.
Solidarity has been waging a challenge against racial quotas
in the workplace, and lodged a complaint against the policy in
2016 with the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Sasol, the world leader in technology that converts coal and
gas to fuel, has sold 25 percent of its local operations to
qualifying black employees, a foundation and the black public in
a 21 billion rand ($1.5 billion) deal financed by the company.
It has said the scheme is not a benefit but a mechanism
designed to meet the rules on black economic empowerment, and
was backed by shareholders.
But Solidarity said the scheme was discriminatory and that
it would file a complaint to U.S. regulators. Sasol also
operates in the United States.
The union said 6,300 of its members would hold a go-slow at
Sasol's facilities in South Africa, and then strike on Thursday.
"We are not against the scheme, we just want it to be
inclusive of all workers. If the company makes it inclusive, the
majority will still be black, so we see no need to exclude white
workers as this is discrimination," said Dirk Hermann,
Solidarity's chief executive.
Sasol, which employs around 26,000 people in South Africa,
said it was aware of Solidarity's intent to strike, and that it
had made contingency plans.
Sasol's shares were 1.4 percent lower at 568.14 rand, with
the market expecting the dispute to be resolved without
A Sasol spokesman said parts of the flagship Secunda and
Sasolberg plants, which produce fuel and chemicals respectively,
were anyway undergoing scheduled maintenance shutdowns, but that
both plants otherwise continued to operate.
The ruling African National Congress said in a statement
that it was concerned by the "obsession with perpetuating racial
polarization" triggered by Solidarity's protest.
Solidarity's Hermann said the union was not promoting racism
and had backed schemes at AngloGold Ashanti and iron
ore mining firm Kumba that treated white and black
But it was in court challenging an empowerment scheme at the
cement firm PPC that grants each black worker twice as
many shares as a white worker.
Herman said Solidarity had also challenged a similar scheme
at South Africa's biggest mobile operator, Vodacom, but
had been hampered by its low members' roll at the firm.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration,
which mediates in labour disputes, ruled that Solidarity did not
have a legal right to challenge Sasol's scheme in court, but
could push its cause through industrial action.
"We expect Sasol to come to the negotiating table," Hermann
($1 = 14.7478 rand)
(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
First Published: 2018-09-03 11:29:57
Updated 2018-09-03 17:02:38
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