CBI send 750 employees packing after closing down

With eyes peeled on exploiting cheap labour in Lesotho, Free State-based manufacturer of electrical distribution components CBI (Circuit Breaker Industries) is all trussed up to lay- off 750 metalworkers before Christmas. 

It finally decided to turn its back and put its factory machinery in a new plant somewhere in the mountain kingdom, where company management has secured wage determination to pay employees peanuts.

Lesotho government’s wage determination offered a reduced wages of R150 a week.

CBI has kept its eyes on paying poverty wages and decided to relocate after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) successfully fought in the Metal Engineering Industry Bargaining Council (MEIBC) to have the five-year exemption enjoyed by the multi-national company cancelled.

CBI management, infamous for its applications to exclusively secure exemptions for reduced wage offers from metal and engineering bargaining council in the past decade, has finally packed and closed down operations in Ficksburg to relocate in Lesotho.

The unscrupulous multinational has also refused to pay laid off employees appropriate retrenchment packages. Numsa has declared a deadlock with the company, Numsa local organizer Courtman Ntshangase said yesterday.

Almost 300 workers who were already transferred last October from Ficksburg in former independent Qwaqwa homeland to the newly built plant in Lesotho have lost their jobs after they refused to accept reduced weekly wages.

The company has secured a wage determination in Lesotho which provided 45-hours working week and R150 starvation wages on weekly basis.

Retrenched workers in the Free State’s Ficksburg plant were being forced to agree to have their salaries and other benefits reduced from R337 a week to R168 a week. CBI earlier 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.

It has refused to pay weekly R674 rates concluded in the industry’s main agreement.

Numsa has now sought intervention of the Congress of South African Trade Union, Southern African Trade Unions Council, International Metalworkers Federation in the region and sister IG Metal.

A mass rally will be held in Ficksburg at the weekend to intensify its campaign against relocation of companies and to ensure new workers in the neighbouring Lesotho were afforded the same rights and wages as those in the country.

For further information contact

Mziwakhe Hlangani, national information officer

Cell: 0837293374

E-mail address: mziwakheh@numsa.org.za


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