Steel industry: Labour and business meets with govt over jobs - NUMSA

Union says ArcelorMittal considering closing Vereeniging plant, while other companies are intending to retrench thousands


21 August 2015

Early this morning, Friday 21 August 2015, labour and business representatives are meeting with representatives of government behind closed doors in Pretoria. The meeting was requested by labour and business amidst the looming jobs loss bloodbath in one of South Africa’s strategic sectors of the economy, the steel sector. In this sector, a massive amount of jobs could be lost in the coming few months.

Already Arcelor Mittal is considering the closure of their plant in Vereeniging; and other major companies such as Evraz Highveld Steel in Mpumalanga and Scaw Metals Group are intending to retrench thousands of workers. This meeting is a culmination of a joint initiative between labour and business to address challenges faced by this sector with government.

Labour and business have joined forces to engage government on the possible interventions needed to be implemented to avoid this sector from further shrinking and shedding more jobs.

According to Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim “The agenda of this meeting is to get a firm commitment from government to reassess their policies which are sweeping away jobs in the steel industry and might lead to workers and their families having to live without a plate of food on the table, amidst the crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality which is ravaging working class and poor households in South Africa today.”

He continued, “To us this meeting is about defending jobs, but most importantly we want government’s change of heart in relation to the reintroduction of steel price tariffs. The country’s political alliance with China is becoming problematic for our economy and workers in particular. The dumping of steel by the Chinese in our country is destroying jobs, so we need government’s intervention. Lastly, the manufacturing sector has the potential to grow our economy so that much needed jobs can be created, therefore government must champion a radical re-industrialisation agenda in the interest of our economy and people at large”.

The current engagements between all the parties are happening within the context of our ailing economy that is not creating enough decent jobs, to accommodate the large army of the unemployed that is ravaged by squalor in our working class townships, inferior squatter camps and former Bantustan areas. This ugly reality has imposed a heavy socio-economic burden on the employed workers to subsidise the unemployed, amidst the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Labour is led by Numsa’s General Secretary Irvin Jim, and includes the leadership of other affected unions namely Solidarity; UASA- the Union and Mewusa. The business delegation is led by Seifsa’s President, Ufikile Khumalo and includes the CEOs of Arcelor Mittal South Africa, Macsteel Coil Processing, Scaw Metals Group, Cape Gate and Evraz Highveld Steel.

Both labour and business will hold a joint Media Briefing on Monday 24 August 2015, in Central Johannesburg, SEIFSA Head Office, Drummond Room, 6th Floor, 42 Anderson Street, to share the outcomes of meeting with government.

Statement issued by Castro Ngobese, NUMSA national spokesperson, August 21 2015