Closure of Bridgestone PE plant looms with 250 jobs on the line

Bridgestone’s Port Elizabeth plant faces possible closure with 250 jobs on the line. This as demand for the tyres produced at the plant has declined.
Bridgestone’s Port Elizabeth plant faces possible closure with 250 jobs on the line. This as demand for the tyres produced at the plant has declined.
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Numsa Eastern Cape regional secretary Mziyanda Twani said they would fight to save any jobs they could at Bridgestone’s Port Elizabeth plant, which is facing closure.

The announcement of the looming closure was made by Bridgestone Southern Africa (BSAF) CEO Jacques Fourie on Thursday.

Fourie said 252 employees at the plant had been issued with Section 189 notices.

Demand for the tyres produced at the plant has declined.

The plant produces an older version of bias-industrial and off-the-road tyres that has seen a steady decline in sales over the years.

Twani said while they were dismayed by the decision, the union was not surprised.

“Bridgestone has over the years stopped investing in Port Elizabeth,” he said.

The possible closure comes as the agricultural industry is shifting to radial tyres, which are longer lasting, and the production of which is modern and high-speed.

Fourie said: “To produce radial tyres an investment in a completely new multibillion-rand plant would be needed, which is not feasible in the current economy.”

He said the shrinking economy and an influx of cheap imports added to this.

“All these technical and economic factors combined have created an environment in which the factory is unable to continue running, despite all efforts to sustain the operation.

“To preserve the competitiveness of BSAF and a sustainable future for its employees, partners and stakeholders, the proposed closure of the Port Elizabeth plant is the only viable option.”

Fourie said the proposal to close the plant was in line with the mid-to-long term business strategy of the Bridgestone Corporation, which planned to strengthen its core tyre business. 

BSAF has in recent years seen its financial performance come under pressure due to a variety of economic conditions and industry factors.

“We realise the effect the project will have on the personal lives of Port Elizabeth employees and we are committed to mitigate the effect of the proposed closure.

“Fair severance packages will be provided and, where possible, skills will be redeployed,” Fourie said.

BSAF employs more than 2,000 people in SA.

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