Sasol's headquarters in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Sasol's headquarters in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Ahead of its 2017 annual general meeting (AGM) this Friday, one of Sasol’s longtime critics has praised the integrated energy group for the significant turnaround in its investment in skills development.

During the 2016 AGM shareholder activist Theo Botha criticised the board for cutting back on investing in employee learning and reducing the number of employees receiving leadership training, as well as for reducing its bursary schemes. Remarkably, investment in black employees was also cut, from a high of R653m in 2014 to a low of R399m in 2016.

Graphic: DOROTHY KGOSI
Graphic: DOROTHY KGOSI

The cutbacks were reversed in 2017, with investment in employee learning shooting up 43% to R970m from R678m. Investment in employee learning increased to 5.1% of payroll from 4.1% and investment in the bursary scheme rose to R53m from R49.22m. In addition, investment in black employees recovered to R500m.

The group’s results have been hit hard by the dramatic and sustained slump in the oil price from a high of $100 a barrel in 2014. The price slump precipitated wide-ranging cutbacks in a bid to protect the bottom line, with investment in skills development suffering badly.

At the AGM in 2016, Botha described the leadership training cuts as "drastic" and said it was a strange response given that "leadership training supports productivity, high performance and sustainable growth". He said the cost cutting unfairly victimised black employees, who were also hit by the reduction in bursaries. "Surely in the light of the #FeesMustFall campaign this company should be increasing its expenditure on training previously disadvantaged people?" Botha asked at 2016’s AGM.

The 2017 Sustainability Report presents a much better picture, says Botha.

He has also welcomed Sasol’s increased commitment to its HIV/AIDS programme following a fall-off in 2016. In that year, the number of employees and contractors receiving HIV screening, counselling and testing dropped to 3,273 from 8,114 in 2014.

Botha told the board in 2016 that HIV/AIDS remained a scourge and it was puzzling that it could approve a reduced commitment. The 2017 Sustainability Report reveals that the number of employees and contractors who had undergone HIV screening, counselling and testing increased to 7,806.

Sasol indicated one reason for the increased level of HIV testing was that employees had to visit the clinic at Secunda before, but in 2017 nurses went to the group’s mining shafts and operational areas.

crottya@bdfm.co.za

Please sign in or register to comment.