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Union challenges unfair retrenchments at Scaw metals in South Africa

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10 March, 2020IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), is challenging the dismissal last year of 163 workers at Scaw McKinnon Chain in Vereeniging, near Johannesburg.

NUMSA wants the retrenchments to be reversed and for the workers' benefits to be restored.

Further, the union is advising the company to approach the government’s Department of Trade and Industry for business rescue – a process that is meant to save a company from liquidation which includes debt and operational restructuring. Instead of the retrenchments, NUMSA wants a training lay-off scheme, cross transfers, upskilling, reskilling, and multiskilling as some of the ways to avoid the job losses. However, according to the union, Scaw went ahead because the company wants to introduce new technologies, outsource and subcontract some of its operations without engaging the union on the issues.

To push for their demands, the workers picketed at the company premises on 27 February and presented a petition with a list of their demands to the management.

Kabelo Ramokhathali, the NUMSA regional secretary for Sedibeng, where the company is located said:

“Scaw management is interested only in maximising, profit and minimizing costs. In order to achieve this, workers are sacrificed. We oppose the retrenchment of the workers because they are not in line with the operational requirements as defined in the Labour Relations Act and are an attempt to vary downwards the terms and conditions of employment of the workers.”

NUMSA demands to be consulted especially when the company makes decisions that affect workers by removing benefits that were gained through collective bargaining agreements over the years in terms of the law.

Paule France Ndessomin, regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa said:

“We call upon Scaw McKinnon to avoid short-cuts and unfair dismissals. The company must protect the interests of workers and consult with NUMSA before dismissing workers. Scaw Mckinnon Chain must maintain wages and conditions of employment as agreed in the collective bargaining agreements.”

Scaw McKinnon Chain is part of the Scaw Metals Group with interests in power generation, mining, engineering and other sectors in South Africa and globally.

The South African economy is in recession having contracted 1.4 per cent in the last quarter in 2019 and unions are concerned about the continued job losses.

Photo: A file photo of NUMSA members in Johannesburg in 2018