New jobs blow as PE firm shuts down

The SRF Industex premises in Korsten. The firm is shutting down after struggling for several years

Closure of industrial manufacturer SRF Industex affects 200

Unemployment in the Eastern Cape will be dealt another blow next month when a longstanding Port Elizabeth industrial manufacturer permanently shuts its doors, leaving about 200 employees out of work.

Korsten-based SRF Industex, which makes components for conveyer belts and tyre cord fabrics for the tyre industry, is expected to shut its doors on December 15.

This follows protracted challenges faced by the company – which had already implemented measures such as layoffs and short time.

SRF Industex is a South African subsidiary of India-based Shri Ram Fibres (SRF) Limited which, according to sources, took over the South African operation when the firm got into difficulties in 2007.

The latest development in the embattled job market follows the recent release of Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA’s) latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey which names the Eastern Cape as having the highest unemployment rate in the country.

With unemployment in the province at 35.5% at the beginning of this month, it had shot up by a massive 7.3% over the past 12 months, Stats SA said.

Brian van Zyl of Van Zyl, Rudd & Associates SA, which has been appointed to manage a number of the processes involved in winding down the company, confirmed the complete closure of the firm.

With respect to the company’s employees, he said a facilitation process under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) was under way and would continue today.

The company had racked up significant losses since 2014, running into tens of millions of rands before it was compelled last month to propose closing completely.

It had also failed to attract new clients in an economic environment where its products could be imported from countries such as China at a significantly lower cost.

Van Zyl labelled the closure as tragic for all concerned.

But he lauded both the management and employees, saying management had put in every effort, including a failed management buyout attempt, to try to save the company.

The employees had committed to working their hardest and best right until the end.

He said every effort, including final medical exams towards medical records for employees, was being made to ensure workers left on the best possible footing.

South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) provincial chairman Brian Hutton, who has been employed at the company for the past 20 years, said: “It has been a long time coming.

“We have already seen things such as short time and job losses over the past few years, so this does not come as a surprise, although it is very sad.

“About 200 people will lose their jobs. All we can hope for is that people will be able to find other employment and that we can secure a decent package from the company.”

Dejected employees approached during a shift change at the factory yesterday said they felt “there is nothing we can do”.

“Some of the people have been here for more than 20 years,” one man, who would not identify himself, said.

“There is not much we can do, except hope for a good package and a new job.”

Another employee, who would not identify herself for fear it would affect the labour process under way, said she was sad and did not know what she would be doing after the company shut down.

“I have only been in this industry, so it is going to be hard to get another job elsewhere,” she said.

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