Sappi looks to cut about 200 employees in its human resources, procurement, communication divisions across South Africa, will centralize operations to head office in Johannesburg

KLOOFSIG, South Africa , October 11, 2011 (press release) – Approximately 200 Sappi employees at the company’s human resources, procurement, and communication divisions nationwide are facing a gloomy Christmas, trade union Solidarity said today. Sappi notified the trade union of the prospective retrenchments in a section 189 notice. The company retrenched 156 employees earlier this year due to the closure of its Adamas mill.

The trade union lamented the timing of the retrenchments. According to Ilze Nieuwoudt, Solidarity spokesperson, retrenchments are always traumatic for the affected employees and their families. “To make matters worse, the Christmas season and new school year, with the added expenses that go along with that time of year, are just around the corner,” said Nieuwoudt.

“According to the notice, Sappi intends to implement the restructuring process to eliminate duplication in the human resources, procurement and communication divisions, which are currently decentralised, by centralising these functions again,” explained Nieuwoudt. “Employees in posts where functions are duplicated will get the opportunity to apply for posts at Sappi’s head office in Johannesburg if they are prepared to relocate. Employees whose applications are unsuccessful are likely to be retrenched,” said Nieuwoudt.

Meanwhile, the trade union expects that this will just be the first of a spate of retrenchments at the company and in the industry. “South Africa’s forestry and paper and pulp industries are under immense pressure, as the same products can be imported much cheaper from other countries, especially China,” explained Nieuwoudt. “Employees in these industries must therefore prepare themselves for what may lie ahead next year. Trade union membership in this uncertain climate provides job security and is just as necessary as life and short-term insurance,” she added. “Though jobs cannot always be saved during a retrenchment process, the trade union always negotiates for the best possible severance package. The trade union also offers financial advice to its members. In addition, members who have been affected by retrenchments are assisted through Solidarity Helping Hand’s jobs portal, WerkNet, to find employment,” said Nieuwoudt.

The retrenchment consultations between Sappi and Solidarity will be facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

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