Automotive workers ‘fired unlawfully’

Mkhululi Ndamase

A GROUP of former Federal Mogul employees, retrenched after their contracts were allegedly unlawfully terminated, picketed outside the company’s Deal Party offices on Wednesday.

A total of 35 workers were retrenched after refusing to sign a new contract which would have seen their salaries cut.

The workers, affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), claim that the company did not give them enough time to think about the offer it had tabled.

Federal Mogul manufactures car parts and accessories.

Former Federal Mogul Numsa shop steward Alfred Campher said the company had fired the workers while consultations were still ongoing.

The new contract excludes transport for the workers and reduces the annual bonus from four weeks’ pay to three weeks, Campher said.

“If you do not accept the new conditions, they let you go. They forced people to leave the premises. They did not even give us a chance to think about their offer. [This] is unfair and illegal dismissal.

“The consultation between the union and the company was not complete because there was no agreement signed.

Repeated attempts to obtain comment from the company were unsuccessful yesterday, as the office phone went answered.

However, a letter from plant manager Warren Inglis, dated November 27 and addressed to the Numsa regional offices and Port Elizabeth shop stewards, said: “The difficulties facing the business are such that there does not seem to be any reasonable prospect in retaining the business in its current format.”

The Herald is in possession of the letter. In it, Inglis said the proposed or possible reasons for proposed dismissals, based on the operational requirements, were:

  • Wage disparities – no consistency in earnings;

  • Overheads too high;

  • Terms and conditions of employment not in line with main agreement;

  • Budgets not met;

  • Job tasks require simplification;

  • Some positions redundant.

The letter said further: “It is with great regret that management … contemplates the possible termination of contracts of employment within the sealing plant Port Elizabeth workplace.”

Campher appealed to the ANC to intervene. “The company is pushing us back to poverty. People’s lives and lifestyles have to change.

“The company does not care about its workers.”

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