GM job cuts relief

Zero retrenchments after 570 leave motor giant voluntarily

Global automotive giant General Motors is at an advanced stage of its exit from the South African market, with the with- drawal process resulting in zero staff retrenchments.

Because almost 600 people have taken voluntary separation and early retirement packages, there was no need to cut more jobs.

The exit plan, which hinges on a full Isuzu Motors buyout of General Motors South Africa’s production facilities in Port Elizabeth and other facilities around the country along with Competition Commission approval of the deal had been expected to lead to a substantial number of retrenchments.

But GMSA spokeswoman Denise van Huyssteen said the workforce rationalisation process had been completed at all its operations nationally, including its sales and marketing facilities in Johannesburg, and no retrenchments had been necessary.

“There has been sufficient take-up in terms of voluntary separation packages and early retirement packages, which means there is no need to retrench any employees,” she said.

However, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has still decried the loss of hundreds of jobs and expressed concern that tough economic conditions mean the payouts will not last.

Van Huyssteen said just under 570 employees had opted to leave the company following its surprise withdrawal an- nouncement in May, which will also see the exit of the iconic Chevrolet brand.

In the months prior to the news, the American car maker had also revealed the sale of its German unit and associated Opel brand to French manufacturer PSA, which owns the Peugeot and Citroen brands.

Opel will, however, continue to be sold in South Africa after distribution of the brand in the country was awarded to the Williams Hunt Group, which enjoys a strong presence in Nelson Mandela Bay and the Eastern Cape.

GMSA has also announced a raft of new high-level management appointments, which show key management members have been absorbed into Isuzu structures.

Van Huyssteen said the one brand operation would employ about 1 000 people.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said: “The fact that we negotiated such good [separation] packages meant that it was easier for workers to accept them and leave the company.

“Those packages will not last forever, however, particularly under the current economic conditions.

“This means it is the same as if the workers had been retrenched.

“The bottom line is that those employees have lost their jobs. And there are many workers whose job supports between six and seven members of their extended families, so we regard all job losses as negative.”

Nonetheless, he acknowledged that Isuzu’s continued and increased investment in the Bay had prevented a far worse outcome.
“The current high levels of unemployment are of great concern and that is why we are going to call on the government to establish a jobs summit,” he said. “We need the government to get the economy growing and to grow jobs.

“We also need the government to sort out the corruption and all of the other problems in the state-owned enterprises as this is part of the problem.” Speaking about the changes at its two production facilities in the Bay, Van Huyssteen said the Isuzu KB bakkie production line at Struandale had been consolidated into a single production platform last month.

Plans for its two assembly plants included that light commercial vehicles would continue to be built at the Struandale facility, while the production of medium and heavy commercial Isuzu trucks would continue at the Kempston Road plant.

“In the medium to longer term, the plan will be to consolidate all production operations at Struandale,” Van Huyssteen said.

Asked whether a full presence of the Japanese company would see an increase in advertising and marketing spend for the Isuzu bakkie range, Van Huyssteen said that it was important to continue to strengthen the brand through focused marketing initiatives.

She said Isuzu KB sales year-to-date had increased by almost 6% on the correponding period last year.

As reflected by some of the appointments at the new entity – which will be known as Isuzu Motors South Africa (IM- SA) – the management in South Africa will include significant Japanese leadership and the company will report to its head office in Japan.

Van Huyssteen said the status of the transition for which the target date was the end of the year was that the matter was being considered by the Competition Commission for approval.

Isuzu is in the process of appointing a network of about 90 truck and bakkie deal- ers around the country.

The key appointments were Haruyasu Tanishige (chairman), Michael Sacke (chief executive officer and managing director), Hiroaki Sugawara (executive vice-president – strategy and business planning), Craig Uren (executive officer – sales, service and marketing), and Mitsuteru Yageta (group chief finance officer).


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