BHP Billiton’s worst still to come for Bayside smelters

BHP Billiton’s Bayside aluminium smelter has put metalworkers through rough time of uncertainty for the past two months as 800 workers faced retrenchment.

The management confirmed that it would be issuing final notices to the affected workers at the weekend and the retrenchments would be effected on April 1st, 2008 in Richards Bay smelters.

And this follows Eskom demand on giant electricity consumers to reduce their power consumption by 10 percent in January, 2008.

Drastic decisions to lay-off metalworkers took place at the time when the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) made earnest appeals to the ANC and Minerals and Energy Parliamentary Committee to intervene as planned retrenchments were connected to countrywide power crisis.

Rather than ensuring that other feasible alternatives were considered such as buying big industrial power generators, the largest resource company once intimated that it planned to relocate its smelters in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Numsa has always been aware that the closure of smelters in the quiet town would affect more than 20 000 families. And, for that reason the union called on government and other stakeholders to urgently adopt a social plan, because the area will be negatively affected.

While the company claimed it suffered production losses amounting to billions of rands as a result of the power cuts, Numsa believe that it sacrificed years of spatial developments in the area as it will soon be turned into a ghost town.

“We are also concerned that the company did not see fit to follow proper consultation processes, but we are not going to take the matter folding our arms” Lucas Mthiyane, national engineering sector coordinator said.

Numsa had earlier demanded that workers affected by job losses should take over positions held by those working as contract workers and moved to other BHP Billiton sites.

The union is to convene a regional shop stewards’ council and community organizations meeting to discuss the effects of the closure of production lines in the smelter on March 29 and 30, 2008 in Richards Bay.


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