21/10/2011 NUM members marched to Xstrata offices to hand over a Memorandum of their grievances in Melrose Arch JHB.(292) Photo: Leon Nicholas

Dineo Matomela, Wiseman Khuzwayo and Sungula Nkabinde

WHILE thousands of National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members delivered a memorandum of grievances on Friday against Xstrata’s withdrawal of its voluntary employee share ownership plan (Esop), mediation has begun.

Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu intervened on Friday when she tasked her special adviser, Sandile Nogxina, to get the parties back to the negotiation table, spokesman Zingaphi Jakuja said yesterday.

The NUM held a march in protest against what it said was the “racist manner” in which the firm wanted to operate the ownership scheme, after Xstrata announced last Wednesday that it was withdrawing the voluntary plan for its South African operations.

The withdrawal followed a strike, which ensued when the NUM demanded a change in the scheme’s criteria for distributing 3 percent of the annual profits in Xstrata Alloys and Xstrata Coal among qualifying employees.

The NUM objected to what it called managers being given larger allocations under the scheme than workers on lower wage grades.

Three days into the strike, Xstrata withdrew its offer, suspending negotiations.

“We are going to intensify the strike action… if we go back to work we will make sure that (Xstrata’s) operations are ungovernable,” NUM national spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said on Friday.

“The NUM is highly perturbed that the company has labelled its black workers as unskilled and uneducated, and not worthy of anything tangible in the form of equal allocation of dividends.”

In the memorandum, the union demanded that Xstrata put serious thought into the Esop issue “and seek advice from other mining companies” and that “the company return with immediate effect to the negotiation table to finalise an equitable Esop”.

Xstrata has acknowledged receipt of the memorandum and has undertaken to respond within a week.

“We’d like workers to get back to work to resolve the issue,” Xstrata spokesman Songezo Zibi said. There would be discussions with the Department of Mineral Resources today, he added.