In­vest­ing in peo­ple has paid off

Reg­u­lar and con­struc­tive en­gage­ments con­tinue to strengthen our re­la­tion­ship with or­gan­ised labour


Draw­ing heav­ily on his 18 years of hu­man re­sources ex­pe­ri­ence at the then SA Brew­eries, par­tic­u­larly when it was taken over by AB In­bev, Khaya Ngcwembe has contributed to Lon­min staff ad­just­ing to the re­al­ity of the loom­ing takeover by Sibanye-still­wa­ter.

Hav­ing joined the Lon­min team as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources in May 2017, he has found him­self at the deep end of build­ing trust with a ma­jor­ity union, en­hanc­ing the own­er­ship of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with more than 30,000 em­ploy­ees and deal­ing with the De­part­ment of Min­eral Re­sources (DMR).

The big­gest change with the As­so­ci­a­tion of Minework­ers and Con­struc­tion Union (Amcu) was on hav­ing prin­ci­pled, open and frank dis­cus­sions and set­ting time­lines by which de­ci­sions had to be made or im­ple­mented with­out its back­ing. Re­mov­ing a host of smaller unions from recog­ni­tion agree­ments as per the agree­ment with Amcu also deep­ened trust be­tween the two sides.

Build­ing a trust­ing and solid re­la­tion­ship with Amcu was also im­por­tant as there were ben­e­fits that flowed through to deal­ings with the DMR.

“Lon­min has its busi­ness in one lo­ca­tion, and with a strong union there is a height­ened risk pro­file that re­quires us to man­age things dif­fer­ently.

Hu­man re­sources de­liv­er­ing on its com­mit­ments on dead­line un­der­pins the re­la­tion­ship with Amcu and the work­force. Reg­u­lar meet­ings with the Fu­ture Fo­rum — where labour and man­age­ment dis­cuss the fi­nan­cial health of shafts and the com­pany — has also im­proved re­la­tion­ships.

“We spend a lot more time on en­gag­ing with our em­ploy­ees. If you have them as an ally then there are fewer re­fer­rals to the DMR and it be­comes an eas­ier and more pro­duc­tive re­la­tion­ship to man­age,” he says.

But it was dur­ing the AB In­bev takeover that ex­pe­ri­ence of a dis­rup­tive op­er­a­tion in a cor­po­rate kicked in for Ngcwembe.

“At times like this, peo­ple want your lead­er­ship and to see you as a leader, so you must en­gage with them as such and not as a vic­tim, par­tic­u­larly given the length of time such com­plex merg­ers can take.”

Khaya Ngcwembe: Peo­ple are key to the en­tity’s prof­itable op­er­a­tions

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