NUMSA demands payment of bonuses by PetroSA

Workers at PetroSA are furious that the company is not paying staff their annual bonus for the second year running, while paying out huge bonuses to top executives.

Ceppwawu, the main union at the company, has since August 2016 been demanding that workers should receive their bonuses. In a letter on 7 September 2016, the Ceppwawu PetroSA Chairperson, Zolani Tyatya wrote: “Members of Ceppwawu would like to know the date and time their bonuses will be paid into their accounts since they have performed as per their performance contracts. Please note that the bonus is long overdue as it was supposed to be paid end July 2016. We are available to meet with you at any venue, anytime and anyhow to find finality on the outstanding bonus. We hope you appreciate the effect this has on our members.”
The company’s response was to say that the matter would be referred to the Board. The union replied: “Thank you for your response. It has to be put to you that a negative response from the Board will not be acceptable considering the deliberations put forward at the meeting with the Acting GCEO where…  the Acting GCEO closed the meeting by saying, I quote: ‘employees should not expect the huge bonus they are used to’.
“Furthermore, the suspense and the way this matter has been handled does not justify a negative response. A negative response will only cause more heart attacks, socio-economic havoc in families, low motivation levels amongst staff that will compromise the safety and operations of this entity, lack of foresight and creativity in rescuing PetroSA, the cost of a negative response will not assist either the company the employees. May wisdom prevail.”
When the PetroSA Acting CEO, Kholly Zono finally replied on 5 November 2016 it was that: “The Board wishes to inform employees as follows:
1. Convey its profound appreciation for the contribution from all employees
2. However the Board is not able to express its appreciation in monetary terms due to the severely constrained financial position of the company.
3. The overriding consideration for the Board at this stage is to safeguard jobs. The Board thus call on all employees to continue to contribute and support initiatives to turn the organisation around.
Yet the same Board, which includes former NUM General Secretary, Frans Baleni, which is demanding sacrifices by its workers, has been paying out exorbitant bonuses to top executives. The Central Energy Fund (CEF), which is responsible for overseeing PetroSA and the Strategic Fuel Fund, told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Energy in November that PetroSA will be paying R41.995m in bonuses to its staff members in the 2015/16 financial year.  This follows bonus payments in excess of R193m in the 2014/15 financial year.
Yet this was in a financial year in which PetroSA made a loss of R14.5bn.
Zolani Tyatya found evidence of such payments in a document he found under his office door, which proved that 10 PetroSA employees who worked in Project Ikhwezi shared a bonus pay-out totalling R12 765 410.63. “What is concerning about this pay-out,”  he told the company, “is that employees of PetroSA have not received bonus for the past two financial years due to the Project Ikhwezi. In light of this and all other facts that were communicated to you, it is becoming more irrational, inhumane, and depressing not to pay bonus to employees.  There is a rumour that the list herein attached is growing beyond the 10 employees; we must pray that this rumour is not true because the current list is too much to stomach on our empty stomachs.”
Numsa members are calling for a forensic investigation of the company since the investigation report by the government is under lock and key in parliament. We know however that the CEF came under heavy criticism from MPs for the state of affairs at its subsidiaries.
In a further letter to the CEF Group Acting Board Chairperson, on 23 November, Tyatya wrote: “Last year employees had to forgo bonus pay-out for Project Ikhwezi; even though as labour we warned the company on the direction the project was taking. This year we are punished for projects outside our control but in the control of the board and executives.
“Last year employees went through a difficult time in dealing with the non-payment of bonus. The effects of last year’s non-payment of bonuses has been catastrophic in as far as the socio/psycho-economic position of employees up to a point that the insurers of PetroSA asset have sharply raised the issue of staff low morale. Exposing employees again to the same treatment can only spell mega catastrophe to employees and the company.
“On Monday this week scores of employees queued at the wellness offices (in Cape Town and Mossel bay offices) seeking counselling because they cannot deal with the non-payment of bonus in light of the fact that the executive has created expectation and delayed response. Employees have voiced the following:
•  Festivities of thanksgiving and spending happy moment with children is just around the corner and employees cannot afford to do so
•  The bonus was always used to pay school fees, prepare for the schools opening, buy gifts for children, and unwind to be fit and ready for work in January
•  For one employee there are four dependents, the bonus was used to assist families
•  Employees feel as outcasts from in company since some of the employees from Project Ikhwezi receive in excess of R1 Million each in bonus
• Workers who have put their weight behind the wheel do not feel appreciated
• Employees are going through tremendous financial difficulties due to current situation and the stress levels is high
• Employees requested management to ask the board of directors to address them directly
• Employees can hardly focus on their jobs
“Needless to say that management was emphatic that employees must return to their workstations even though this poses danger to employees and the asset. Employees expressed their lack of trust in management and executive when management promised to convey the message to the board of directors.”
Numsa fully supports this view and demands that the company immediately reverses its decision on the non-payment of bonuses to staff. The union has now declared a dispute with the bargaining council on the bonus issue and is awaiting a date of dispute. Further Numsa members have resolved in a general meeting on 30 November 2016 that they will start with lunch time pickets until their bonuses are paid in full.

Irvin Jim: Numsa General Secretary: 073 157 6384