Numsa fights back jobs relocation to Lesotho

Numsa fights back jobs relocation to Lesotho

The president of the Steel Engineering Industry Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) and managing director of the country’s major manufacturer of electrical distribution components Circuit Breaker Industries (BCI), Helmuth Fischer is facing the greatest challenge of leading relocation of his company to Lesotho, ostensibly for cheap labour or face the wrath of local and international labour federations.

CBI has threatened to retrench 900 workers in Ficksburg, Free State after it reportedly resumed moving its operations to the newly- built plant in Lesotho. Almost 300 out of the 900 staff complement reportedly lost their jobs when they refused to accept reduced wage offers of R168 a week in the new plant in Lesotho.

The company has secured a wage determination in Lesotho which provided 45-hours working week and starvation wages. This followed after Numsa successfully fought in the Metal Engineering Industry Bargaining Council (MEIBC) to have the five-year exemption enjoyed by the multi-national company cancelled.

Numsa collective bargaining chief coordinator Bafana Ndebele said yesterday that the union has sought intervention of Cosatu, Southern African Trade Unions Council (Satuc), International Metalworkers Federation and IG Metal to ensure that new employees in Lesotho were afforded the same rights as those in the Boksburg plant, Johannesburg.

” Most certainly, none of the remaining 600 workers in Free State’s Qwaqwa plant will agree to have their salaries and other benefits reduced from R337 a week to R168 a week, just to ensure they keep their jobs in the new plant in the neighbouring Lesotho,” he said. And, the union is coordinating plans with Cosatu and international federations to embark on widespread work stoppages in order to reverse the relocations and to ensure that those jobs created in Lesotho were improved and employees were paid higher wages equivalent to South African jobs.

The company had previously moved its operations from Botshabelo near Bloemfontein to the now defunct homeland Qwaqwa before 1994 because it could not stand pressure from Numsa to improve employment conditions, including wages.

BCI has vociferously refused to pay weekly R674 rates concluded in the industry’s main agreement and threatened to relocate in Lesotho if it was not exempted from paying half of the agreed rates for five years in 2002. The council was forced to grant the exemption then fearing that 900 would lose their jobs.

When it (the company) failed to secure further guarantees of exemption after the existing one expired in June 2007, the company unilaterally moved is operations to Lesotho.

Numsa also planned to stage protest campaigns against the company in November to pledge solidarity with striking Australian workers in Heinemann Electrics plant (sister company) which refused to pay 54 workers for five days of work.

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Mziwakhe Hlangani, national information officer

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