Tati Nickel Mining Company, which recently retrenched more than 160 of its employees, is embroiled in yet another controversy of breaching section 32 (1) (b) of the Employment Act .
The Francistown nickel mining company has been accused of deducting at least 10 percent of exit packages for retrenched employees as repatriation expenses.
Scores of retrenched workers have complained that the deduction violated the country’s labour laws, which provide that when a company terminates an employees’ employment on redundancy, it is obliged by law to repatriate the affected employee.
However, the mine is alleged to have deducted 10 percent of the employees’ terminal benefits and withheld the money as repatriation expenses.
The affected employees complain that the company has withheld thousands of Pula from their exit packages in contravention of the law. The company is understood to have withheld thousands of Pula of the affected employees’ terminal benefits who have since reported the matter to the Francistown Labour Department.
An employee known to this newspaper alleges that the company deducted over P20 000 from his exit package in repatriation fees.
Addressing journalists on Thursday, the company’s acting managing director, Bogdan Kuzhel, said the retrenchments were prompted by the company’s desire to improve its efficiencies as its work force was bloated.
He said when Norisl Nickel acquired the mine from LioneOre four years ago it never undertook a study on the workforce compliment, adding that the retrenchment was done in line with the recommendations of EOH Consulting that was engaged to restructure the operations of the mine.
Kuzhel said in some instances it was found that some roles have been duplicated hence the need to combine some departments into one for future sustainability of the mine adding that appropriate measures were taken to ensure that operational efficiencies were not affected.
He said the technical needs of the company have changed over the years in addition to reduction in output of 30 percent.
TNMC is the lowest grade nickel producer in the world and low ore grades have presented unique challenges in the company’s operating environment.
The retrenchments were attributed to declining ore grades and escalating operating costs.
The retrenchments were done across the board hence the laying off of some managers.
Meanwhile, the company is currently undertaking exploration in adjacent areas to the mine to discover new sources of ore.