…former work­ers’ di­ary of events

Observer on Saturday - - News -

The work­ers de­tailed their strug­gle in all av­enues as they con­tinue fight­ing for jus­tice.

In 2005, the work­ers ran to court to com­plain that they had been short­changed by Sappi, but the com­pany won the case and in 2011 ac­knowl­edged the court rul­ing in its favour with re­gard to ad­di­tional ben­e­fits claimed by ex-em­ploy­ees re­trenched in 2005. On the eve of the take-over of Mon­tigny, Shane Per­row, Gen­eral Man­ager, and Eli­jah Ma­sondo, Pub­lic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer, is­sued a pub­lic state­ment that read:

“A lease to Mon­tigny of the re­dun­dant Usutu Mo­tor Trans­port fa­cil­ity, where 100 000 tons per an­num ‘Wet off’ sawmill and a door man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity will be erected.

“A lease to Mon­tigny of staff ac­com­mo­da­tion in Bhunya and Mh­lam­bany­atsi; An agree­ment to sup­ply Mon­tigny with 95 000 tons per an­num of tim­ber for ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion in the sawmill; An agree­ment to sup­ply Mon­tigny with 25 000 tons per an­num of tim­ber and 20 000 tons per an­num of wood­waste for ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion in their char­coal man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties, which will be lo­cated in the neigh­bour­ing chief­doms;The cre­ation of over 500 new job op­por­tu­ni­ties. Usutu Pulp Com­pany has se­cured from Mon­tigny In­vest­ments the com­mit­ment that Usutu Pulp Com­pany em­ploy­ees will be pri­ori­tised in the re­cruit­ment process.

“We wel­come this ver­dict and be­lieve it is now im­per­a­tive for all stake­hold­ers to fo­cus on the ex­pan­sion and growth of Usutu Pulp Com­pany, so that it may once again be a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the eco­nomic growth of Swazi­land (Eswa­tini). From the on­set, we in­di­cated that the pack­ages we paid were fair and rea­son­able.

We are com­mit­ted to mov­ing for­ward and in­vest­ing in Swazi­land, whilst max­imis­ing lo­cal ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion. The cur­rent ac­tiv­i­ties of Usutu Pulp Com­pany have al­ready cre­ated over 1 200 job op­por­tu­ni­ties, which will only in­crease as the longer term growth strat­egy of Usutu Pulp Com­pany is im­ple­mented,” This was ac­cord­ing to Alex Thiel, CEO of Sappi, South­ern Africa.

“We call upon our ex-em­ploy­ees to be cau­tious and not to be de­ceived by false prom­ises and un­founded al­le­ga­tions against the com­pany and its man­age­ment,” he con­cluded.

In the state­ment, they fur­ther said de­spite the con­tin­u­ous fi­nan­cial chal­lenges and the dev­as­tat­ing 2008 fires, Sappi had con­tin­ued to act in good faith to­wards its former em­ploy­ees and con­trac­tors for over 14 months. It claimed that Sappi Usutu had pro­vided sub­sidised rental, ed­u­ca­tion as­sis­tance, recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties and clin­ics to ex-em­ploy­ees and ex-con­trac­tors.

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