Trade unions and employee participation


It is AECI’s policy not to tolerate any form of unfair discrimination, harassment, child labour or intimidation in the workplace. Group policies and standards guiding behaviour in these matters are in place and training is provided to management and shop stewards to facilitate understanding and good relationships. The violation of policies and standards is a violation of AECI’s ENGAGED and RESPONSIBLE values, and results in appropriate disciplinary action.

Employee relations policies are reviewed and updated regularly to ensure continued alignment with business and legislative requirements. Formal contracts with all employees conform to local legal requirements and the core conventions of the International Labour Organization.

Labour legislation

The South African Labour Relations Act, No. 66 of 1995, as amended, was promulgated in January 2015. Significant changes relate to areas such as the protection of vulnerable workers, limiting temporary employment to a period not exceeding three months, and non-discrimination in respect of issues of equal pay for work of equal value. For AECI, this resulted in the revision of employment policies in general and the Recruitment policy in particular, as well changes to the management of temporary employees and labour brokers.

AECI Group companies also operate in several other countries. There were no significant changes in labour legislation in any of these countries in 2015.

In Botswana, amendments to severance pay legislation are under review prior to finalisation and promulgation. Changes contemplated in Burkina Faso were placed on hold owing to political instability there.

AECI Group employees participate in the implementation of changes that affect them through their representative trade unions. Those who are not unionised are consulted via briefing sessions.

Trade union and employee participation

AECI recognises the right of employees to collective bargaining and freedom of association. It maintains constructive relationships with all representative unions and councils that enjoy consultative or negotiating powers on issues of mutual interest. About 45% of employees in South Africa are members of trade unions. Trade union representatives participate in formal joint management/worker committees and they also serve on the Boards of Trustees of certain Group retirement funds.

A major concern for South African trade unions is the decreasing rate of employment and ongoing job losses through retrenchments. Industrial action across the country, particularly in the mining sector, has high- lighted the critical importance of a partnership approach to employee relations as jobs are lost in the Group’s customer operations.

In line with the principles and spirit of recognition agreements, consultative forums are used to communicate the state of the business environment and related business performance, and to engage on related matters of common concern.

As in South Africa, relationships with employees in other countries are based on fairness, openness and dialogue in the legal framework of each country of operation.

Recognition agreements in South Africa are in place with all the main chemical industry trade unions. Representative trade unions outside South Africa are recognised in a number of countries and represent about 59% of the Group’s international workforce. A list of trade unions is attached.

Business restructuring

AEL, Akulu Marchon and ImproChem undertook restructuring initiatives in the year. All three consolidated functional and administrative services at their operating sites so as to enhance the cost competitiveness and efficiency of their cost bases. Certain business units were divisionalised.

Detailed, regular consultation with affected employee representative bodies preceded restructuring which, regrettably, resulted in 155 jobs being made redundant. Retrenchments were limited to 103 of the
155 employees affected owing to redeployment and natural attrition.

Where retrenchments are unavoidable, affected employees are treated fairly and with dignity.

To mitigate the effects of retrenchments a number of measures were put in place, in line with policy and practice. AECI has a comprehensive social plan with benefits and services aimed at alleviating the hardship of job losses:

a competitive severance package;

counselling to address emotional issues;

financial and retirement workshops and counselling;

assistance with writing curricula vitae;

training in interview and job search skills;

small business development training; and

re-skilling and re-training programmes.

Substantive collective agreements

Wage negotiations were concluded successfully and without any industrial action notwithstanding the uncertain environment due to subdued economic conditions. It was pleasing that the parties involved continue to display professionalism and maturity in engagements, to the benefit of all parties concerned.

Substantive collective agreements for bargaining unit employees in South Africa are negotiated annually under the auspices of the National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry. Settlements reached by employers and representative trade unions were effective from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016.

Wages and substantive conditions of employment in businesses outside South Africa are negotiated with trade unions on an annual basis where trade unions are involved. In Burkina Faso the government is also involved in the negotiation of wages. In countries where unions are not involved, management determines increases based on labour market competitiveness, inflation and remuneration survey data.


Less than robust economic conditions in South Africa call for a more strategic approach to partnerships between labour and the private and the public sectors. Issues such as poor socio-economic conditions, inter-union rivalry, job losses, the high youth unemployment rate and less expensive foreign labour pose challenges which could impact on labour market stability.

Outside South Africa the main concerns are in Burkina Faso, where socio-political unrest increased in 2015. Subsequent to elections in that country, it is hoped that stability will return.

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Formally recognised unions [PDF - 64KB]


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