|18. May 2009
BCL Lays Off 60 As Retrenchments End
BCL Mine's retrenchment exercise has wound up with a total of 60 employees leaving the Selebi-Phikwe based copper and nickel mine.
Mine management has however been quick to note that further downsizing may become unavoidable should the global recession persist.
When it announced its plans to retrench earlier this year, BCL Mine had initially targeted laying off 348 employees as part of a slew of cost-cutting measures to survive the recession. In March, the mine revised the target to less than 200 workers, as a result of dialogue between prospective retrenchees and management. Part of the strategy had been to encourage employees aged 57 years and above to go on voluntary retirement.
Last week, BCL general manager Montwedi Mphathi announced that the final figure of retrenchees had declined further to 60. In an article published in BCL Mine's in-house journal, Maitiso, Mphathi stressed that the retrenchments had been a "last resort".
"When the exercise commenced, the company had identified 348 employees who were likely to be affected by the exercise. When the exercise was completed at the end of April, 81 employees were placed to various positions through the labour clean-up exercise while 84 were redeployed to various positions.
"Fifty-five employees who would have otherwise been retrenched were reserved for critical skills. A total of 60 employees have left the employ of BCL of which 46 left through voluntary retrenchment, nine through compulsory retrenchment and five through early retirement," Mphathi said.
He added that all retrenchees have been provided with life skills and psycho-counselling.
Parliamentary Labour Relations Committee Chairperson Rakwadi Modipane recently told journalists that BCL Mine had informed his committee about its various safety-net structures for retrenchees.
"There are programmes for those being retrenched or those leaving so that they can do something after BCL. These include training retrenchees to invest their package, short courses for those interested in farming and for those interested in business, BCL Mine has asked the Local Enterprise Authority and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency to give them training on that," Modipane said.
According to the Parliamentary Committee, the psycho-counselling is aimed at empowering the retrenchees to cope with the traumatic process of leaving active employment.
"The affected employees found the process quite relevant and helpful. The company has also had extensive consultations with various stakeholders, especially the unions who were also involved in monitoring the retrenchment exercise through a joint committee with management," said Mphathi when announcing the finalisation of the retrenchment exercise.
Unions were particularly unhappy that the initial retrenchment plan outlined by BCL would have resulted in the majority of retrenchees emanating from the non-management section, leaving management comparatively unscathed.
Unionists were also unhappy about the treatment of expatriates under the initial retrenchment plan.
It is unclear from which sections the final retrenchees are from or whether expatriates are among the victims.
Mphathi stressed that depending on the nature and direction of the global economic situation, BCL would continue to re-examine itself and could, in future, be compelled to rationalise its operations.
Meanwhile, the process of structuring BCL Executive Committee (EXCO) has been implemented whilst restructuring at departmental levels is ongoing with the process having been finalised in some areas. Mphathi stated that BCL has also introduced some assessment tools to assist in identifying competency and skills gaps for the management in an effort to ensure correct placement and closure of competency and skills gaps.
"Where the assessment tools will be used to determine placement, the mine will ensure that the process is fair and compliant to relevant legislation," said the GM.
BCL Mine has been commended for the good faith and prudent manner in which the retrenchment exercise and associated processes were carried out.
The Parliamentary Labour Committee, which visited BCL Mine in March, said it was impressed with the general harmony between management, workers and unions concerning the retrenchment exercise.