Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Debswana’s Operations Review project worse than recession

When employees of Debswana Mining Company were adjusting from the worst global recession, they have been confronted by a new reality of possible job losses.

Just when they were still enjoying the 4% salary hike, the workers were confronted with letters from the company management notifying them of further possibilities of retrenchments in 2010.

Debswana estimates indicate that over 1000 positions will be affected directly while others will be offered outsourcing opportunities.

Esther Kanaimba-Senai, Debswana’s Group Manager for Public and Corporate Affairs told Sunday Standard that the anticipated job cuts are in no way connected to the company’s reduction in profits last year due to the global crisis.

“The Operations Review Project is not linked to the recession and it is not being implemented as a result of last year’s reduction in profit, which was as a result of reduction in production due to market demand,” Kanaimba-Senai said. “The Project was conceived in 2006 under the Company’s five year strategy.”

She added that Debswana employees have been notified about the project ever since the official launch in July 2008.

Face-to face interactions and memos were part of management’s communication with the Debswana community about the project.

“Unfortunately, the identified model can not absorb all the employees who currently work for Debswana. Employees have been informed about this and are aware of the selection criteria that will be used,” said Kanaimba- Senai.

The letters formed part of the consultation process the company undertook arising from the implementation of the outcomes of the project.

The project, which was launched in 2008, was signed off under the 2010 North Star strategy document in 2006.

In signing the document, Debswana made a commitment to reduce costs and improve organisational effectiveness.

In a letter dated December 17th and addressed to Debswana employees, General Manager Johane Mchive revealed that the objective of the project is to create a high performance organization to achieve superior productivity safely, while maintaining benchmark unit cost performance.

He further implied that for the objective to be achieved, the following had to be adapted: creation of a new business model-fit for purpose, revised higher level business processes, revised organisational structures to support the new model and optimal staffing levels, right skills and competencies.

Mchive wrote that so far the company has considered a number of alternatives to the retrenchment issue.

Some have been implemented, some are in the process of being implemented or are being contemplated.

One of the alternatives is a moratorium on recruitment for non-critical vacancies, they are also considering development training to bridge the skills gap where this is practicable and voluntary separation will be offered to redundant employees who cannot be redeployed or transferred.

“The number of employees to be retrenched as a result of the operations review project shall depend on the success of the measures undertaken to avoid and to reduce the number of retrenchments,” wrote Mchive.

According to Mchive’s letter, there is also a looming possibility of the future re-employment of employees who are retrenched.

Kanaimba-Senai added that the selection criteria has been developed in line with the job requirements at various levels.

“This include, amongst others, technical qualifications, technical knowledge, appropriate organizational experience, ability to model corporate values, citizenship of Botswana, future potential and competencies,” said Kanaimba-Senai.

Debswana currently employs an estimated 5000 employees. For years, Debswana has remained the biggest employer of Botswana citizens in the private sector.

At the time of going to print, Botswana Mine Workers Union Chairman, Jack Tlhagale, was not readily available for comment.

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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.