THE NATIONAL Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has said the union is ‘shocked at the news’ that General Motors (GM) intends to pull the plug on its operations in South Africa.
NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim said GM informed ‘our members at a general meeting on Thursday morning that it is withdrawing from the South African market.’ As a result, production and sales of all Chevrolet models will cease, and Isuzu will take over the firm’s operations in Port Elizabeth.
Isuzu will also be taking over the parts centre because it will continue manufacturing the Isuzu KB bakkie as well as its range of medium and heavy trucks. GM has confirmed that it intends for Isuzu to officially take over operations from January, 2018.
Jim said there are more than 1,000 employees at GM and 500 of those are based in the Chevrolet division.
He said: ‘The vast majority of employees are NUMSA members. ‘As a trade union we are surprised that GM chose to convey this announcement in this way
‘There was no consultation with the union, and furthermore, the company has not divulged any details about the fate of its employees affected by this restructuring.’
He warned that shutting down operations in South Africa will have a major impact, not just on GM plants, but for companies along the value chain as well. Jim said: ‘We are concerned that GM has already indicated that it might retrench workers and that it intends to issue section 198 and 197.
‘If these discussions are indeed taking place then it is likely that GM knows how many employees will be retained, and how many will be retrenched. We are expecting to meet with the management of GM soon to discuss these matters.’
He said NUMSA will consult lawyers on the way forward, adding: ‘This is the second time that GM has said it is pulling out of South Africa, and as NUMSA, we smell a rat. We suspect that the shareholders got a very good deal at the expense of the workers.
Jim said the company had already shut down the plant and had indicated that it will meet with NUMSA to discuss the latest developments.
‘But this is after the fact,’ complained Jim. He added: ‘They acted unilaterally and did not inform the union of this decision. As a result, we are consulting lawyers to see what legal avenue we have in resolving this crisis. Isuzu will be taking over operations at GM, but we doubt that they will absorb all the workers who used to work at those plants.
‘Now that GM has made it clear that it is disinvesting in the country, we will also probe whether this is not an agenda by the car company to dump the remainder of its cars on the South African market. If they proceed with dumping, we will take up a campaign to prevent them in light of the fact that they are disinvesting in the country. We stand with our members during this difficult time.’
Meanwhile, the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) said on Sunday its members are continuing with their strike at the University of Pretoria (UP), where an open day was underway.
On Friday, NEHAWU members embarked on strike and picket action at the university over salary increases and a 13th cheque. The striking workers made their way onto the campus where they were removed by police. The university has since obtained a court order prohibiting NEHAWU from protesting inside their premises.
NEHAWU’s Khaya Xaba said the strikers will not be intimidated by the university’s scare tactics. Xaba said: ‘We’ll not try to go inside the university, we’ll be protesting outside. We see the interdict as nothing but an intimidation tactic used by the university to try and deter workers from exercising our rights to protest.’
On Friday the NEHAWU strikers picketed outside the university’s Hatfield Campus. The university said in a statement that classes were continuing as normal‚ despite the strike taking place mostly at the main gate of the Hatfield campus.
The UP statement said: ‘During the course of the morning they (picketing workers) broke through a fence to enter the campus. Police on scene fired stun grenades and teargas to disperse protesters. No injuries were reported‚ however, three have been arrested.’
Pay talks with NEHAWU deadlocked earlier when the union rejected UP’s offer of an increase of seven per cent, effective from 1st March this year, as well as a R3 000 gratuity payment. The matter was then referred to the CCMA and a certificate of non-resolution was issued, allowing the union to embark on a protected strike.
Earlier, NEHAWU said it had concluded negotiations on salary and allowance adjustment and accepted the revised offer from the management of the Rhodes University thus ending the strike.
A NEHAWU Secretariat statement said:
‘The accepted revised offer is a victory to workers in that:
• The university has agreed to adjust the cost of living by 6.9% across the board for permanent employees from grade 1 to 17
• Transport allowance will be adjusted by R400 per month for the following employees; food services, healthcare centre, Central Cleaning Services (CCS) and Campus Protection Unit (CPU).
• Housing allowance will be adjusted by R1000 per month for all permanent employees from grade 1 to 17
• All employees will be entitled to one afternoon off per month. The arrangement for taking an afternoon off will be determined by the relevant supervisor and will not interfere with the operational requirements of the section/division/department, subject to the approval and implementation of the applicable leave rules and policy
• The amount set aside for merit awards will be divided amongst all employees within the bargaining unit for 2017. This entails that each employee receive a once-off bonus of approximately R1332 which will be paid in December 2017.
‘Employees who qualify for the payment must be in service at the date of the payment and the amount will be pro-rated for staff members who joined after January 2017. The national union will continue to raise sharply the issues related to transformation as raised with the management of the University last month and will not rest until all services are insourced and workers are absorbed permanently by the University.
‘Once again, we appeal to the university to prioritise and treat its workforce with dignity and respect if it wants to excel as a world class institution. We warn the management against planning to victimise members and workers who were on strike and workers must be allowed to go back to work with no persecution or intimidation.
‘In this regard, the union would also like to warn the university management well in advance about the serious consequences that will follow should they entertain any thoughts of retrenchments as a strategy to make up for lost revenue. If indeed there is lost revenue and they are in financial turmoil then they should solicit a political intervention for an urgent financial rescue plan from government. We salute members and workers for being resolute in the fight to improve their working conditions and the creation of a conducive working environment.’
• The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) said last Friday it will intensify its strike at the Mangaung metro in the Free State after a deadlock in negotiations with management.
Workers are demanding salary adjustments and better working conditions.
SAMWU provincial secretary Thabang Tseuoa said: ‘By intensification of the strike, we mean a total shutdown of all services, we believe we are at 90% of the strike and all workers should not go to work.’
A SAMWU statement said: ‘When we embarked on this industrial action, we made it clear that we would not be returning to our work stations until all our demands are met. Thursday’s LLF could not agree on anything as the employer was unwilling to negotiate with us in good faith, including the fact that they could not concede where they have erred on issues of law, issues which do not need negotiations but implementation.
‘Members of the community have therefore been mobilised to join the strike action as issues which have been raised by workers directly affect them. We will soldier on and not retreat until all demands have been met.’