Solidarity: Sappi retrenchments halved

2012-02-29 17:33

Johannesburg - The number of employees facing retrenchment at paper manufacturer Sappi has been halved, trade union Solidarity said on Wednesday.

The number was down from 959 to 456 employees, Solidarity spokesperson Marius Croucamp said in a statement.

The planned retrenchments had been delayed for six months to allow for special training for employees who did not apply for severance packages.

The 456 employees who still faced possible retrenchment could apply for a voluntary severance package or go for special training for six months while receiving partial remuneration.

"The aim of the training plan is to broaden the skills of as many employees as possible, in the event that they can be deployed in other divisions in Sappi instead of being retrenched," Croucamp said.

"The number of forced retrenchments is therefore likely to be even lower than the current estimate."

Late last year, Solidarity was given notice of four retrenchment processes at Sappi's Ngodwana, Enstra, Richards Bay and Tugela mills.

The union asked Sappi to consolidate the four so that they could be dealt with at the same time by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

Croucamp said there could still be jobs lost at Sappi.

"There are currently two threats to the paper industry," Croukamp said.

"The policies and subsidies which support the industry abroad make the playing field uneven for South African paper manufacturers."

He said the planned carbon tax to come into effect this year would have a serious impact on the profitability of several Sappi mills.

Solidarity planned to meet the departments of economic development, and trade and industry, and Sappi to discuss these issues.

Comment from Sappi could not be immediately obtained.