National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim urged General Motors South Africa employees in Port Elizabeth yesterday to be “as united as a rock”.
Addressing about 400 of GMSA’s 1 500 workers at the Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton following the company’s shock announcement last week that it was pulling out of the country by year-end, Jim raised the possibility of unified action by all the employees, whether affected or not.
“So there are 600 workers being targeted [for retrenchment] and 900 who will stay at the company,” he said.
“We [workers] must remain united. An injury to one is an injury to all.
“We must be as united as a rock. Fighting back is the best form of defence.”
GMSA has struck a deal with long-time associate, Japanese bakkie and truck manufacturer Isuzu Motors, which will be taking over the company’s facilities in South Africa.
The takeover is expected to result in the loss of between 500 and 600 jobs at GMSA’s vehicle assembly facilities and scores of others at vehicle dealerships, suppliers and other entities dependent on GMSA’s operations.
“You are the workers who have worked loyally for many years,” Jim said.
“You did enough to enable the company to continue to produce.
“All of these multinationals, they just move from one country to another and they don’t care about the workers. “Capitalism has no friends.” He said foreign manufacturers should not be allowed to sell their vehicles in the country without establishing factories here.
According to labour legislation, he said, the workers should have been given 60 days, after being informed of GMSA’s intention to withdraw, to consult with the company.
He cited potential legal action, engagement with government departments and shop stewards at suppliers and with an international federation of labour unions (to put pressure on General Motors international) as among the actions the union was taking.
“We met with legal counsel on Sunday and drafted a number of questions to be submitted to GMSA,” Jim said.
“What will happen to employees who are involved in disputes or disciplinary action with the company and those who are on extended sick leave?
“We are also demanding to see the contracts and administration between GMSA and Isuzu.”
Speaking at the hall, Mzwanele Plaas, 54, who has worked at the company for 24 years, said: “The only skill I have is the one I acquired working at GM. I am scared and unsure about my family’s future.
“If I lose my job, I don’t know what will happen to them.”
Litha Tshandu, 51, who has worked at GMSA for 23 years, said: “I have children at school who depend on me, this uncertainty makes me afraid for their futures.”
Zukile Sokhuthu, 32, said: “We were not given enough time to process this.”
Lulamile Dili, 32, said: “We are scared, trying to get another job will be difficult.”
Simphiwe Msuthwana said: “It’s a nerve-racking situation because we don’t know who is in and who is out.”