The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) in KwaZulu-Natal mourns the loss of a worker who passed away while on duty at Foskor on Wednesday. We send our deepest condolences to his friends, colleagues and family members. Foskor is a chemical manufacturing company, which is owned by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in Richardsbay.
Hours before the worker lost his life, the pH levels inside the plant rose to dangerously high levels. In such situations the law requires that workers must evacuate the premises until the pH levels can return to normal. However, management refused because they were worried that workers would not meet the production target for the day, and they carried on with production. We condemn them for choosing profits over the safety and workers lives!
NUMSA was preparing to embark on a strike at Foskor this week. One of the demands was around health and safety issues. Our members complain that the pH levels in the plant have an impact on their health, but management has been ignoring them. We decided to postpone the strike to give mediation a chance, and we will be meeting with the management team of Foskor to discuss this and other issues. However, we reserve the right to pursue strike action if management fails to respond decisively to our demands. They have a duty to guarantee a safe working environment.
Our members have refused to report for duty today. They do not feel safe and management has not addressed them since the incident occurred yesterday. Yesterday, workers continued with production even after the incident, and they were expected to continue as if nothing happened! These are the actions of a cold, calculating employer, who does not see workers as human beings. Workers are in mourning because one of their own has lost his life. Foskor has a duty to stop production and to contact the Department of Labour to do inspections. The Department of Labour has not yet inspected the workplace and has not deemed it to be safe. Until this is done, our members are within their rights to refuse to work.
NUMSA has written to the management team at Foskor to demand the following:
- Managements alleged failure to evacuate the workplace may have played a role in the worker losing his life. We therefore demand an independent investigation into the incident.
- We demand that the Department of Labour must inspect the workplace and conduct an investigation into the cause of death. Given that we have not been satisfied with their investigations in the past, we will demand to be part of that investigation.
- Furthermore, we need to understand whether daily exposure to chemical fumes contributed to his death, and if so, what is management going to do to create a healthy and safe working environment?
- If after an investigation it is found that our member died as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals we will demand compensation for him, as well as all workers who were exposed.
- We demand that those managers who made the decision to stop workers from being evacuated, should be disciplined and fired.
We will be meeting the management team of Foskor today to discuss these and other issues.
The leadership of NUMSA in the province will be meeting with the family soon and our officials will be on hand to help with funeral arrangements.
The struggle continues!
NUMSA KwaZulu-Natal Regional Secretary
For more information, please contact
NUMSA National Spokesperson