Sasol Mining is still to decide whether to reinstate close to 1 000 workers dismissed in 2009 for engaging in a wildcat strike, or appeal the Labour Court’s decision.
The labour court has ordered Sasol Mining to reinstate the workers because their dismissals in January 2009 were “substantively unfair”, even though they were “procedurally fair”.
The workers staged an underground sit-in at the company’s Middelbult, Bosjesspruit, Brandspruit and Twistdraai mines in Mpumalanga on January 22 and January 23 2009 over a dispute about wage gaps and salary disparities among Sasol employees.
Through the now defunct United People’s Union of SA (Upusa), the workers wanted the company to close the 7% wage gap between its wage personnel and monthly staff, and the 3% gap between Sasol Mining’s wage personnel and the rest of the industry.
Upusa’s other concern raised at that time was that Sasol management continued to recognise the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood & Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu), even though Upusa were in the majority.
They also questioned why low-level workers were under Ithebe Medical Scheme while others were under the Sasol Medical Scheme.
Although Upusa reached an agreement with the company, they were surprised that the wage gap benefits had not been implemented when they received their January 15 payslips.
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This prompted the workers to hold a meeting on January 21 where they took a decision not to go above ground after their shift until management had addressed them on the wage gap issue and given them reasons for the suspension of the Local Shop Stewards Council.
Before the sit-in, Sasol Mining suspended shop stewards for instigating, organising and participating in unauthorised marches which took place at Sasol premises on January 19.
“We will study the judgment [issued on September 19], which is voluminous, and then consider the options available to Sasol. This is the extent to what we can offer given the status of the matter,” Sasol’s spokesperson, Alex Anderson, said this week.
Judge Robert Lagrange ordered that:
- Sasol reinstate the workers with retrospective effect for a period of two years and issue them with a final warning for disobeying a lawful instruction;
- Some workers be reinstated with retrospective effect for a period of one year, and be issued with a written warning for participating in an unprotected strike action; and
- Sasol pay workers seeking compensation for a period of 12 months and that it also pay this money to the deceased estates of those who have since died.
Abner Magagula, secretary-general of Shosholoza Workers Union of SA, formed after Upusa’s deregistration, said that when workers returned to work after the Labour Court’s judgment, Sasol Mining’s management showed them a letter of their intention to appeal.
“They can’t be planning to appeal now,” Magagula said. “We’ve been out of work for ten years and some of our colleagues have died. Sasol must be decisive – pay us or reinstate us.
“It’s been a month and a half since the judgment was passed and they should have decided what they want to do,” he said.
Magagula added, however, that some workers who were dismissed, but then joined Ceppwawu, were reinstated back then.