Solidariteit Sasol

(Paul Saad / Flickr)

Solidariteit: What their protest against Sasol’s “black only” share ownership means for SA

After Sasol unveiled a company investment scheme that excludes white employees, Solidariteit have decided to go on strike.

Solidariteit Sasol

(Paul Saad / Flickr)

Monday will see the beginning of a country-wide Solidariteit (Solidarity) strike at Sasol after the energy and chemical company revealed controversial share-ownership plans in line with Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) protocol.

The company employ over 26 000 workers, but roughly 6 300 of them are part of the trade union group Solidarity. With its majority-white membership base, they’ve decided to take industrial action over “discriminative” plans to exclusively offer shares to black employees.

Here’s what you need to know about the situation:

Sasol’s “black-only” share plans

As part of the “Sasol Khanyisa stage two” proposals, share ownership in the company has been offered to all employees of black, coloured or Indian descent. This excludes white workers and has got members of Solidarity up in arms.

The scheme would also place 25% of Sasol’s ownership with black South Africans and would replace Sasol’s previous institution of Sasol Inzalo.

Sasol called this a “moral imperative”. Solidariteit blasted it as “crude racial exclusion”. The company have moved to explain that Sasol Khanyisa is only offering the racially-based scheme as part of its second stage. Stage one still accounts for all employees “regardless of race, tenure or seniority”.

How long will Solidariteit strike against Sasol?

There are plans in place to take action for the next three weeks. Industrial demonstrations are set to begin on Monday, but according to Solidariteit, it won’t just be a case of all workers downing tools on the spot.

The union’s CEO Dirk Hermann has revealed that their workers are willing to cripple means of production through “well-laid, strategic plans”. He told City Press that different groups will take it in turns to go on strike, switching off certain sections of Sasol each day:

“Our 6 300 members are highly trained employees of major strategic importance to Sasol. We intend to switch off a different section of Sasol each day by means of well-laid and strategic plans. We have the knowledge and influence to achieve that.”

What Sasol produce

They manufacture the chemical compositions for petrol, diesel, jet fuel, fertilisers, alcohols and polymers. As well as being big players in the fuel production industry, Sasol has a key role in the agricultural and manufacturing section, too.

Areas affected by the Solidariteit strikes against Sasol

The strikes could bring even more misery to the motorists of Mzansi. With petrol prices soaring for the fifth month in a row, any further disruptions to the market could see petrol prices rise once more. However, with South Africa importing a majority of its fuel, the consequences may not be too dire.

Nonetheless, the coordinated strikes of over 6 000 workers – which could last for the best part of a month – will be keenly felt somewhere down the line. Their products are used in mobile phones, printing ink and even car parts. With South Africa’s manufacturing industry already struggling, any further disruptions can only be seen as having a negative influence.