THE National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) is demanding a fair deal for the 1,500 strong workforce after General Motors announced its disinvestment from the country by the end of 2017.
A planned retrenchment of 589 out of 1,500 workers will have dire effects. The metalworkers’ union is ‘disgusted’ by the American automotive company’s ‘devious and underhanded’ treatment of workers. It wants ‘full disclosure’ of the deal with the Japanese carmaker, Isuzu, which is buying the manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth.
NUMSA said thousands of jobs are at risk in this job-loss bloodbath. Losses will also be felt along the supply chain which included tyre manufacturing and motor vehicle components. Other jobs under threat are in GM’s 132 dealerships, of which only 90 will be taken over by Isuzu.
The union points out that GM is not acting in ‘good faith’ as it neither consulted NUMSA nor the ANC government on its decision to retrench as required by the law. To ensure a better deal for workers, NUMSA is discussing the retrenchments with GM. The Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration will mediate in the talks.
NUMSA, which attributes GM’s action to global capital’s attack on workers, has written to the company about possible alternatives to the retrenchments. These include skills training and placement of workers in other jobs. A full NUMSA statement said: ‘The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) met with General Motors (GM) employees on Tuesday (23 May) to discuss details of GM’s decision to disinvest from South Africa.
‘The car company signed a deal with Isuzu to take over its operations in the country. Since that announcement GM has confirmed that at least six hundred workers will be retrenched as a result of this decision. However, we believe that the number will be much higher, especially because thousands of workers in related industries are also likely to lose their jobs now that GM is pulling out of SA. GM’s dealings with employees is devious and underhanded. ‘NUMSA is disgusted by the manner in which GM has conducted itself in the course of this process. The car manufacturer has not been acting in good faith.
‘GM has not disclosed the full terms of the agreement it signed with Isuzu. By virtue of the fact that it acted unilaterally and refused to engage trade unions and government on its decision. The car manufacturer knows full well that before any announcement is made to retrench workers, it must consult unions 60 days ahead of time, so that we can assist to find alternatives for those workers who are to be affected by the job losses. However GM deliberately did not engage and waited until the last minute to impose this process on workers.”
GM’s dealings with its employees can best be described as devious and underhanded
This is an organisation which clearly hates workers and their families because it acted selfishly to benefit its own shareholders at the expense of ordinary workers.
‘What is truly shocking is that GM received enormous support from this government when it was setting up its plants and it has been a beneficiary of government incentives. It is truly shameful that it then responds to our generosity by literally spitting in the faces of employees with this course of action!
‘NUMSA has submitted to GMSA a list of questions that are critical for the union so that we can get accurate information in order to be able to advance alternatives from an informed position. NUMSA has written to GM’s global management to register its complete disapproval of this decision and to see whether it can be engaged to arrive at a different decision than this one. This is a plan which is fully supported by the new federation SAFTU as well as our global federation IndustriALL.
GM’s true motive is to dump its products on the SA market
‘NUMSA’s take on this crisis is that whilst GM can claim global market factors are the drivers for the global restructuring of its operations, in order to justify disinvestment, our view is that this company wants to solve its global crisis of overproduction by dumping its products in SA.
‘The Department of Trade and Industry and the Economic Development Department should not allow any company to dump production in SA without first creating jobs in this country. Government’s Automotive Master Plan of 2035 should not allow any firm or company to dump in South Africa, and furthermore, we should no longer continue to be part of the European Union.
‘NUMSA accepts that we are part of the global village, but we should not allow any multinational including GM to take this decision to insult our citizens and then pull out operations from the country.
NUMSA will drive a campaign to boycott GM products because of job losses
‘The global management of GM should be aware that it is inhuman to allow their company to pay starvation wages to workers who are already alienated and exploited because they don’t have benefits and are exposed to poor conditions of work. If GM wants to sell cars in SA, it must manufacture and produce them locally, otherwise it must leave SA and take its products with it. We call on government to intervene and ensure that GM is not allowed to dump its products in SA after it has exploited workers. As NUMSA we will drive a campaign to boycott their products in light of how they treated the citizens of this country.
‘Furthermore, whilst GM has made the decision to disinvest, our priority is to secure as many jobs as possible. Once GM has disclosed fully the terms of the agreement we may be in a position to put forward alternatives to mitigate against further job losses.
Capitalism does not have the interests of the working class at heart
‘Capital and all neo-liberal regimes represented by the IMF, World Bank and WTO don’t have the interests of the working class at heart; they only seek to exploit them. The only solution is for workers to unite and organise for themselves in order to protect their interests. The ultimate mission is to conquer state power, and impose polices to champion a job led industrial strategy which will create jobs that can ensure a living wage.
‘The governing party, the ANC, has demonstrated over the last 23 years that the implementation of neo-liberal capitalist economic policies are responsible for such devastating decisions.
‘The sale of GM will have a material impact on the local economy of Port Elizabeth as it will result in thousands of people losing their jobs.
‘Until this government implements policies which will allow it to intervene directly in the economy for the benefit of the working class and the poor, all talk of radical economic transformation is just hot air.
‘Meantime, NUMSA has agreed to participate in consultation with GM regarding retrenchments which is under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration, (CCMA).
NUMSA will stand by its members during this difficult time
‘In light of this course of action, NUMSA wishes to assure its members that we stand by them and we will perish with them. The best form of defence is to fight back, and NUMSA is determined to do all it can to soften the blow for our members and their families. Despite these difficult times we are inspired by the words of the revolutionary former president of Cuba, Comrade Fidel Castro, who said great problems demand great solutions. We will fight side by side with our members to ensure that they receive the best outcome possible. If we are united, we will prevail.’