South African union protests Sappi's plan to eliminate about 1,000 jobs by March 2012 at its facilities in Gauteng, KwaZulu and Mpumalanga in South Africa; Sappi calls union's figures premature as talks have not yet been held

LOS ANGELES , December 12, 2011 () –

A union at Sappi Ltd.’s South African operations is protesting the company’s plan to eliminate more than 1,000 jobs by March 2012, in an effort to boost profits, according to a union press release on Dec. 12.

The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (CEPPWAWU) said that Sappi initiated a new round of 1,026 job cuts this month.

The union’s figures, however, are premature as the talks to discuss possible layoffs have not yet been held, Andre Oberholzer, a Sappi spokesperson, told I-Net Bridge/BusinessLIVE, reported Independent Online on Dec. 12.

The Johannesburg, South Africa-based pulp and paper group announced on Monday that its ongoing restructuring might involve some job losses.

The facilities affected include Sappi Enstra in Gauteng, which will lay off 278 workers, and Sappi Ngodwana in Mpumalanga, which will lay off 90 workers. In addition, Sappi Tugela, Sappi Saicor and Sappi Stanger, all located in KwaZulu-Natal, will lay off 630, 21 and seven employees, respectively, the CEPPWAWU said.

In July, the company closed its Adamas plant in the Eastern Cape, resulting in 230 job losses, and another 172 workers are to be laid off in December, according to the union’s press release.

The CEPPWAWU said that Sappi is “destroying” a total 1,428 jobs and that it has not been included in any of the discussions or consultations on Sappi’s restructuring plan.

However, Sappi said it has gone through a “detailed process” of consultations with all of its unions -- including Solidarity and United Association of South Africa -- since 2010, according to Oberholzer, Independent Online reported.

In October, the company said substantial additional job cuts would occur in its fiscal 2012’s first half and could involve its support services staff.

In an effort to resist the layoffs, the CEPPWAWU said it is gathering support from the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions and the International Chemical, Energy, Mining Federation.

The union is demanding to meet with Sappi’s top executives, asking that the company withdraw its retrenchment and that the consultation among the facilities involved be held jointly, according to the press release.

The primary sources of this article are the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union, Johannesburg, South Africa, and Independent Online, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, both on Dec. 12, 2011.


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