Ford employees enraged by imminent job cuts

Numsa press statement 23 January 2005

Ford employees are enraged by imminent job cuts.

Ford Motor Company in South Africa has announced further massive retrenchments plans of hundreds of workers. This follows relocation of Volvo and Land Rover production operations in Pretoria’s Ford assembly plant to Europe.

For the first time ever, last year’s annualized vehicle industry in the country reached over half a million mark. And, this reflected strong growth of 25, 5 % over the same period in 2004.

But, Ford’s global turn-around strategy introduced to cut costs after the all time high record new vehicle retail sales reported by the company in December, 2005, had changed the company’s fortunes overnight. Tens of thousands of workers worldwide are facing massive job losses including some of the 4700 Ford staff complement in the country.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) is deeply concerned about massive lay offs but not shocked. “We were forewarned when Volvo Corporation in Sweden decided to recall Volvo production operations back to Sweden because its employees were redundant as the plant was burdened by excess labour,” Tshwane local NUMSA chairperson Alex Mashilo said yesterday.

Discontinued production of the most popular Ford Ikon late last year, also put the union on alert of more difficulties to come. And, the company’s local unit posted major losses when the production of Ford Focus in Pretoria for the Australian and New Zealand market was suddenly stopped up due to the free trade agreement between Australia and Thailand.

The company also went through severe depression after losing the lucrative contract for its Port Elizabeth’s Struandale plant to produce engines for the European market.

Ford’s afflictions looked set to increase after management forecasted a rise in vehicle unit’s global losses to R2, 9 billion. And this, subsequently, led to anticipated 30 000 job cuts and threats to shut down several plants in Latin America.

Now, NUMSA’s providence and resources power are geared to agonizing requirements as more redundancies in the Pretoria’s assembly paint shops were caused by introduction of the robotic painting machinery. To avoid retrenchments, the union had to negotiate for the transfer of those workers to other operations.

About 363 workers already had their positions, however terminated. And, last week the company further proposed that the fixed contracts of 562 workers should not be renewed as most models will be phased out and relocates to China.

When the crunch comes, Mashilo said production volumes of the Ford Focus which were fairly high before the contract for Australian markets was lost, are expected to go on a serious decline. “More retrenchments will follow as the rest of other models beside Ford Ranger, Bantam and Mazda Drifter will be imported,” he explained.

It is not expected that budget cuts, reduced production levels and downward variations of benefits for the remaining employees will help stabilize the company’s worsening market crisis worldwide.

For more information contact:

Mziwakhe Hlangani, NUMSA national information officer

Mobile: 083 7293374.

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