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Strike looming at Xtrata

Management discriminates against lower paid workers

The dispute declared by trade unions UASA, NUM, NUMSA and Solidarity in respect of the unequal distribution of shares allocated in terms of an Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) scheme remained unresolved after an attempt at conciliation at the CCMA yesterday failed.

The unions declared a dispute because management adopted an approach whereby employees get proportionally more shares in accordance with the position occupied. In other words, the higher the position occupied by the employee, the bigger the share allocation.

This principle is totally unacceptable and contrary to the principle of equal allocation and established “best practice” which spontaneously developed in the industry over the past seven years, says Franz Stehring, Divisional Manager of the trade union UASA responsible for mining workers. We have long moved beyond a situation of discrimination on the basis of race, gender and job levels when it comes to the allocation of shares in terms of ESOPS. Even the mining charter is reflective of this principle, says Stehring.

Xtrata, with its head office in Switzerland, seems to stick to its divisive stance of favouring higher paid employees by giving them more shares and in doing so discriminates against lesser paid employees, while all employees contribute equally to the viability and sustainability of the company. Not only is this approach divisive, but it feeds the culture of greed in the country and lastly, it is totally disrespectful for the reconciliation achieved among workers in the industry through the adoption of the principle of equal allocation of shares when it comes to ESOPS.  

The unions will now meet with their respective constituencies and decide when they will give the required 48 hours notice of their collective intention to embark on strike action.

In the event of a strike, 12 000 workers could down tools which will see coal mining operations in Mpumalanga and Rustenburg come to a standstill. This will have a definite effect on coal exports and power generation, concludes Stehring.