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VW workers down tools over health, safety concerns

The VWSA plant in Uitenhage
WORKERS UNHAPPY: The VWSA plant in Uitenhage

Workers from the VWSA production line in Uitenhage temporarily downed tools on Friday for what they claimed was the flouting of Covid-19 regulations by the company.

Chanting struggle songs and wearing masks, workers left their stations and protested outside the assembly plant, where they were eventually addressed by management.

A worker who did not want to be named accused the company of putting their lives at risk when supervisors called employees waiting for their Covid-19 test results back to work.

“We’re feeling unsafe because we’ve been told that supervisors are calling people who are at home in isolation waiting for their results to come to work, which places the rest of us at risk of catching this virus,” the worker said.

Another worker said people were dying at VW and the move by supervisors did not take into account the risk factor.

She was echoed by a colleague who also said VWSA had, before employees returned to work, promised certain regulations and were now reneging on those.

Comment from VWSA spokesperson Andile Dlamini was not received by Friday night.

National Union of Metalworkers of SA shop steward Zama Silo said workers were concerned about health and safety issues.

“Workers are saying the company is changing regulations that while some employees are awaiting their results, they should come to work, which poses the risk of spreading the virus.

“Other issues raised, which were secondary, included the TERS (temporary employee relief scheme) as they have not received their May UIF payments.

“Workers are saying they have been waiting on money from May already, and that there has been no proper updates on this and the company has not been fully transparent,” Silo said.

Numsa regional secretary Mziyanda Twani, who was in a meeting with VWSA shop stewards, said the fundamental issue was the feeling of being unsafe in the workplace.

“What we’re being told is management representatives, their isolation and quarantine periods, place other employees at risk.

“In terms of numbers, the plant has become an epicentre for Covid-19 and there are genuine health and safety concerns by our members,” Twani said.

He added that the automotive giant was running on a three-shift system but wanted to introduce a two-shift system, which workers felt would cause congestion.

“We’re meeting with management to see how we can find a way to move forward and resolve this.

“On the TERS situation, it’s more of a frustration because our members have been raising this and management showed that on June 13 their application was successful but there’s been nothing beyond that,” Twani said.


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