On The Shopfloor – Welding gets priority

Welding gets priorityPeter Thobejane

In 2005 the Merseta stakeholders joined hands to look at the shortages of skills in our industries.Welding was identified as one of the critical and scarce skills in South Africa. This was after Sasol had imported 600 welders from foreign countries because South Africa didn’t have skilled welders.Statistics claim that the error margins of South African welders are 33% while that of imported welders is only 6%.This led to a Merseta partnership with a college in the Eastern Cape together with the South African Institute of Welding (SAIW) to establish the Institute of Sectoral and Occupational Excellence. Opening its doors on December 5 2006, the R2,8m project will have trained 300 highly skilled welders by 2009. In his opening address, the Merseta CEO, Dr Patel, said that the initiative was done so that the Merseta could meet national demands and was in line with the government’s growth strategy, Asgisa, and its skills development initiative, Jipsa.He further said the Merseta’s 2007 programme would focus on the following key areas:

human resource development
developing the right skills for the country
qualitative investment.

When workers develop their Workplace Skills Plans, they must link their requirements with the Sector Skills Plan and the National Skills Development Strategy 2005 – 2009. STOP PRESS: The West Coast International School of Welding, with funding of R2.85m from the Merseta, has just opened its doors. Situated in Vredenburg, the institution will train 100 learners a year.

Fidentia scandal highlights importance of trustees

DCSA workers to get layoff benefits
Millions of rands from workers’ provident funds have been lost by widows and orphans of mineworkers who were members of the Living Hands Trust owned by Fidentia. Now Samwu, Fawu and Satawu are saying that some of their funds are also affected by the scandal.Jan Mahlangu, Cosatu’s retirement funds coordinator says that worker trustees should learn from the Fidentia scandal.He says that trustees should always:
make sure that any service provider that takes deposits from them is complying with the relevant sections of the Act
check and double check that the company/Trust where the service provider is depositing the money, is registered with the Registrar of Pension Funds
without getting too paranoid, if trustees start to suspect that something is not right, they must investigate immediately
if the service provider refuses to provide the financials of the company that it is depositing the money with, then trustees must “act like it was yesterday!”Mahlangu warns trustees of the dangers of relying on one service provider only to provide actuarial, consulting and administration services. And while Fidentia boss, J Arthur Brown, spends his first nights in jail, Mahlangu says the worker trustees should be worried too. He says they could be sued in their individual capacities, “they can’t say they didn’t know, they were advised four times to get rid of Living Hands!”

After months of tough negotiating, Numsa has signed an agreement with Daimler Chrysler (DCSA) to provide for 1681 DCSA employees to be paid while on layoff.From March to June, the DCSA plant in East London will stop production as it prepares to produce the new C series Mercedes from later in the year.During that time, workers will have to sit at home unless they are required for limited production and training. During the layoff time they may not work in any formal employment and must be available on 48 hours notice.During the layoff period, DCSA will pay workers as if they had worked for 32 hours a week.The money to pay the layoff benefits will come from:- long service balances from 2006, – excess annual leave that was not required for the December 2007 and January 2008 shutdown – training (5 days for each employee for the entire period)- layoff benefits for 2007 to 2009- long service leave for 2007.Workers who resign or are fired before they have paid back these advances to DCSA must repay DCSA what they still owe. However DCSA has said that it wants to conclude a new agreement for future layoffs that will involve workers banking their hours when they are working normally Already German DCSA workers are using this method to fund their layoffs. But, a glance at comparative wage rates shows just why South African workers are reluctant to bank hours like German workers do!According to the International Metalworkers Federation’s Purchasing Power book, once a worker in the automotive sector in Germany has worked for nearly two days, he can buy a fridge. In South Africa, a worker must work for almost three weeks before he has earned enough to buy a fridge!The same goes for cars. While a German worker must save nearly five months earnings before he can buy a medium-sized car, a South African worker requires a whole three years earnings!

Growth benefits a fewAndile ZithoFor the past few years Johnsons Control and its 800 strong workforce has been benefiting from the government’s Motor Industry Development Programme because of the export of its car seats.However late last year the good times started to turn sour. The company said its volumes had decreased. We suspected that it had something to do with the model change at Daimler Chrysler (DCSA). DCSA workers were told that they would be laid off for four months in 2007 while the plant prepared for the new Mercedes model.

First Johnsons Control announced that 180 workers employed on a temporary basis through a labour broker would lose their jobs. When worker went on strike to support them the court ruled that workers couldn’t strike because Johnsons Control was not their employer.They were released to sink in a sea of poverty after they made shareholders of the company rich. At the end, all they got was empty packages.

Whilst many people are noting with pride the economic growth of 5% in 2006, there is no proof of quality jobs created by that growth. In Uitenhage, out of every 10 jobs created, eight were through labour brokers while only two were permanent jobs. As Numsa News went to print Numsa was busy negotiating for a further 80 permanent staff that have been served with notices of retrenchment.

ZF Lemforder workers get leave enhancement payMlungisi TikoloNumsa members at ZF Lemforder SA in Rosslyn Tshwane were unhappy when their seven layoff days were not included for the purpose of calculating their leave as well as leave enhancement pay. ZF Lemforder falls under the engineering agreement.They were particularly upset because they had read from Numsa News that a layoff that is less than 8 weeks is regarded as hours worked for the calculation of leave and bonus pay. Despite the shop stewards protestations the matter remained unresolved until shutdown.

Finally the company agreed to the workers’ demand and paid the outstanding amount in January 2007. It is important to highlight these stories because they help to inform other comrades who may be facing a similar situation.