Once again, Solidarity and the energy and chemicals company Sasol succeeded in portraying the kind of relationship sought after by every industry. Thanks to excellent negotiation and a commitment by both parties to reach a win-win solution, approximately 1060 job opportunities were saved. Not a single one of these employees earmarked for retrenchment were retrenched.
This shows that a relationship strategy shouldn’t only focus on the relationship between the employer and the union, but also on following a holistic approach with which every part of the retrenchment process can be managed.
The eighteen month process started on 28 May 2010 when Sasol (South African operations) and Solidarity signed a Workforce Transition Framework Agreement on the implementation of the Functional Excellence Organisation Design. The agreement
stated that “there will be a moratorium on all involuntary retrenchments until 30 June 2011. A review of the progress against targets will be done after June 2011 and should unsatisfactory progress within selected groups be recorded, formal retrenchment procedures will be implemented, i.e. the issuing of a Section 189 notice of the Labour Relations Act”.
This target date has come and gone without any formal retrenchments being necessary.
According to Gerhard Cloete, Solidarity’s organiser at Sasol, this success story is thanks to the true spirit of partnership practised at Sasol. “Parties have resolved to enter a new era in employee relations by strengthening their relationship and the
quality of their engagement through a range of measures as contained in a charter governing our partnership.”
During July this year, management conducted an in-depth review of the progress made against targets. As at 30 June 2011, there were 44 employees in the over strength category across all functions. The 44 over strength represents 0,8% of the total “to be” staff establishment.
The Workforce Transition process is measured against (a) the agreement with the unions and (b) the Definition of Victory of the Functional Excellence programme. Significant progress in both areas has been made. According to Cloete, all the jobs in jeopardy were saved by the successful strategy of using resource balancing, incentivised voluntary separation options and the company’s willingness to minimise the impact on employees.
Sasol’s management has taken the following decisions regarding the Workforce Transition Process:
• The Workforce Transition process, as it relates to the Functional Excellence Programme, is declared closed. This means that management will not consider any further voluntary and/or involuntary retrenchment procedures.
• All current over strength employees will be placed permanently.
• Functions will proactively manage any management gaps against the “to be” staff establishment through the process of Resource Balancing and natural attrition.
• Any future business improvement processes within business units and/or at group level, which might have a possible retrenchment impact, will be dealt with in line with the requirements of the Labour Relations Act and applicable Sasol policies and procedures.
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