The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to seek an order to prevent the sale of assets at VR Lazer, a company formerly owned by the Gupta family. The purpose of the application was to save the jobs of 146 workers at the company. We wanted the court to interdict the business rescue practitioners, Robert Knoop and Louis Klopper from auctioning the plant and the machinery of the company in order to settle the debts of the company. The auction of these goods is set to take place on Thursday the 20th of September. If these goods are sold it will make it virtually impossible for workers who were working for the family to be employed at the company again, as VR Lazer will have no value. It is only a viable business if these assets remain intact.
We also wanted the court to prevent the sale of these assets and to force the business rescue practitioners to have a meeting in order to consider an offer to buy VR Lazer from a consortium called Crede Capital. Crede Capital was willing to settle all outstanding debts and to continue the business. This would allow workers to keep their jobs. But if the company is stripped of its assets, there is no incentive for them to purchase VR Lazer because it has no value. The Business Rescue Practitioners were also unwilling to hold a meeting with creditors to consider the new offer from this consortium, and we went to court in the hope that they could be forced into holding this crucial meeting.
BACKGROUND ON VR LAZER
VR Lazer is a provider of lazer and plasma cutting services, CNC drilling and precision press brake bending. As a result of the growing State Capture scandal the four commercial banks in South Africa refused to provide banking services to the company which caused it to become financially distressed.
DECISION OF THE COURT
Unfortunately, the court dismissed our application on the basis that it did not meet the standard for urgency. But it did not deal with the merits of the case. We are disappointed by the outcome because we saw it as a lifeline for our members and their families. Like the workers at Afroworldview (formerly ANN7), our members are being punished simply because their owners are the Gupta family. They have nothing to do with allegations of corruption and State Capture, but they are facing an uncertain future, simply by being associated with the Gupta’s. We do not support the Gupta family or Jacob Zuma, as has been alleged by some in the media. After all, our members paid the heaviest price for rejecting Jacob Zuma and his corruption, when COSATU expelled us in 2014. But even that selfish act, has not deterred us from fearlessly defending all workers and their families.
This is a gross injustice, especially for the 146 workers at VR Lazer and their families and that is why it is important for us to defend them. A truly caring Socialist government would have intervened directly to save these jobs because the crisis of unemployment and poverty is so dire in our country. But the ANC-led government does not care about the working class and therefore they did not intervene. They have a history of sacrificing workers in order to serve their own narrow agenda.
NUMSA is a worker controlled union whose only interest is that of our members and their families. We are unapologetic about defending them, because that is what a truly militant, Socialist trade union must do. Above all, we are motivated by our love for the working class. We must do all we can to defend and protect them from the curse of unemployment.
We are studying the judgement and will make a decision on the way forward
The struggle continues!
NUMSA National Spokesperson