I don't know if I'll survive this retrenchment called 'load-shedding'!Cedric Gina

The memories of the first and second retrenchment at Bayside are still fresh for Petros Mnikathi and about 200 other Numsa members. Mnikathi started working at Bayside in 1974.

He was a young man at the time. He knows no other work, except to produce aluminium. He has received many young people in the employ of Bayside.

He has “trained” many new employees in aluminium production. He has never experienced a power problem. For him, this is retrenchment number three.

He survived the first one in the early '90s when a voluntary retrenchment process called Bayside Renewal Process (BRP) attracted over 900 fellow workers.

In 2000, another round of retrenchment took place. Under a new name, Close the Gap (CTG), this was a forced retrenchment which retrenched more than 800 workers.

He does not know if he will survive this one called “load shedding”. “I am not happy with retrenchment,” he says. He would have survived through the LIFO process.

But this time around it looks like the company has proposed a different approach of subtle selective retrenchment.

The union is standing firm on the criteria that will protect long serving workers.“Izinto zonakele (Things are bad), policies, children’s education, retirement annuities and health cover will all be affected”, says Mlambo, a worker with 26 years service. 

I-Bayside idiliza abasebenzi abangu-200Imicabango yokudilizwa kokuqala nokwesibili lapho okuncitshilikiswa khona i-aluminiyamu e-Bayside e-Richards Bay isemisha kuPetros Mnikathi kanye namanye amalungu angu-200 eNumsa.

UMnikathi wayeyibhungu ngenkathi eqala ukusebenza e-Bayside ngonyaka ka-1974.Usesinde ekudilizweni okubili kwesikhathi esedlule e-Bayside kodwa akazi ukuthi uzosinda yini “kulokhu kudilizwa kokuphungulwa kokusindwa kukagesi okubizwa nge-‘load-shedding’”.

Inhlekelele yamandla kagesi waseNingizimu Afrika uphoqa ukuthi kuvalwe izindlu zamabhodwe ezimbili lapho okuncitshikaliswa khona i-aluminiyamu lapho okusebenza khona uMnikathi.

Sizolwa silwe amalungu ethu aze athole lokho okufanele akuthole,” kusho uThulani Gumede, usihlalo wamagosa eNumsa yase-Bayside.

Bayside speel beurtkrag met 200 werkersDie herinneringe aan die eerste en tweede afdankings by die Bayside-Aluminiumsmelter in Richardsbaai is nog vir Petros Mnikathi en omtrent 200 ander lede van Numsa baie vars.

Mnikathi was ‘n jong man toe hy in 1974 by Bayside begin werk het. Hy het twee vorige afdankings by Bayside oorleef, maar hy weet nie of hy hierdie keer die “afbetaling as gevolg van ‘beurtkrag’” sal oorleef nie.

Suid-Afrika se energiekrisis het gelei tot die sluiting van twee smeltafdelings by die aluminiumsmelter waar Mnikathi werk.“Ons sal veg en veg tot ons werkers kry wat hulle toekom”, sê Thulani Gumede, voorsitter van Numsa se vloerbeamptes by Bayside.

Bayside e fokotsa basebetsi ba 200Ketsahalo tsa ho fokotswa mosebetsing kgetlo la pele le la bobedi mane Bayside aluminium smelter e Richards Bay di ntse se le dikelellong tsa Petros Mnikathi le ditho tse ding tse ka bang 200 tsa Numsa.

Mnikathi o ne a sa le motjha ha a ne a qala ho sebetsa mane Bayside ka 1974. O ile a phonyoha phokotsong tse pedi tsa mosebetsi mane Bayside empa ha a tsebe hore na o tla phonyoha le ho ena ya jwale e bitswang 'load-shedding' Bothata ba motlakase mona Afrika Borwa bo qobelletse hore ho kwalwe di-pot room tse pedi tsa aluminium smelter moo Mnikathi a sebetsang.

Re tla tswela pele ho lwana ho fihlela ditho tsa rona di fumana seo di se batlang,” ho rialo Thulani Gumede, modulasetulo wa di-shop steward tsa Numsa tsa Bayside.

The first victims of the Mbeki cabinet's intransigenceCedric Gina

Bayside Aluminium will close two pot rooms at the aluminium smelter in Richards Bay. About 200 workers will be affected. The reason for the closure is to allow Eskom to get back the 10 percent of power that it needs.

Numsa is shocked! Workers are shocked! Newly elected shop stewards are shocked!The apology happened on the eve of the ANC Polokwane conference.

The State President did the unprecedented – “he apologised”. At that time, the effects were not felt by the citizens, there was no closer scrutiny of the apology. In many quarters, it was as if Mbeki was showing an unknown side towards the Polokwane Conference. Was he electioneering?

Soon after the Polokwane Conference, the real impact of the intransigence of Mbeki’s cabinet was felt by all. Load shedding became a popular phrase, competing with post-Polokwane in the news headlines. In the Numsa e-mail based debates, questions started coming in – are workers going to be affected? Legal opinions were exchanged.

All were pointing to the provisions of the Bargaining Council agreements that talk about paying workers if they showed up at the workplace and there was no electricity.

In the midst of that debate, a blogger in the Mail and Guardian writes an opinion piece;“The solution to the power crisis in South Africa is to close all the smelters”. Hillside metalworkers distribute the article on e-mail, worried. Management assures all, 'we will not do such a thing'.

A series of meetings take place – BHP Billiton, Eskom and some cabinet ministers. And then the announcement!

Thulani Ngubane, NUMSA organizer in KwaZulu Natal is quoted in the Sunday Times, “NUMSA will fight these job losses with all the might it has at her disposal”.

Meetings start to take place, unilateral communication with members by the company is halted, information is requested, it comes in uninspiring pieces. We are not impressed, we are going to fight!

Support from COSATU is what we need!“The support of all Cosatu shop stewards in KwaZulu Natal on 20 April 2008 is what we desperately need”, says Thulani Gumede, the new chairperson of Numsa at Bayside Aluminium.

Cosatu members and the community will redden Richards Bay on April 30 in a march that will end when Bayside Management and Eskom are called to receive a memorandum.“No amount of apologizing will be accepted by these workers and their families who will lose their income because an avoidable situation was turned into a catastrophe,” says Gumede who has 16 years experience.

The workers will not take this retrenchment lying down. As a matter of fact, he says, “this company is not having a financial crisis”. The approach to this retrenchment must be different from previous retrenchments.

Didn’t they foresee a possibility for power shortages?” he asks.“We will not make it easy for Bayside this time around,” warns Gumede. “With the support of our union Numsa and Cosatu, and the society, we will fight and fight until our members get what is due to them.â€


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