Outrage is growing at ArcelorMittal’s (Amsa) retrenchment plans affecting possibly up to 3 500 “direct and indirect“ jobs at Africa’s steel giant, with especially the Vereeniging plant likely to be at the center of retrenchments in the Vaal.
Unions Solidarity and National Union of Metalworkers have reacted sharply to what they described as a surprise move by Amsa, given that the factors cited as leading to the decision were “nothing new” and slamming the timing of the move.
But the company told Vaalweekblad that it rejected speculation that up to 900 permanent and contractor jobs could be lost in the Vaal alone, which would be an economically devastating for the already depressed region.
However, it is widely expected that Section 189 retrenchment notices will be issued in the following days.
“The publicly-released figure of 3 500 is a worst-case scenario and we are thus unable to say with any accuracy how many direct and indirect jobs will be lost in the plants and localities involved at this stage,” said Tami Didiza, Senior Manager stakeholder Management and Communication, after the announcement.
The steps announced by the company this week were in fact mooted as a possibility years before, said Didiza.
This follows an interview with Engineering News magazine with Amsa CEO Kobus Verster in which the publication stated that 2 600 of the 3 500 envisaged job losses were outside the Vaal, leading to intense speculation that the remaining 900 would be from the Vaal.
Verster also said in the interview that the plant wind-down process would begin in January 2024.
Amsa announced this week it had taken a decision to close its steel long-product production centres in towns such as Newcastle and Vereeniging. Vereeniging has 224 permanent employees and an undisclosed number of contractors, referred to by Amsa as “ïndirect” jobs.
However, contractors have often outnumbered permanent employees at its Vaal and other plants by several times.
This retrenchment decision does not affect employees both direct or indirect at Amsa’s flagship production plant in Vanderbijlpark, which produces flat steel products such that used in vehicle manufacturing, the company said this week.