Three prominent Vaal business leaders said they are requesting a meeting with CEO Kobus Verster as soon as possible – Prince Skele (Chairperson Sedibeng Business Community),
(CEO of Vaal Business Co-operation) and Jaco Verwey (President of the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce – GTCoC).
The three organisations said they would seek to assess the economic impacts on the Vaal of the proposed job losses as well as the potential safety implications of mothballing plants before adopting a formal position on the devastating job lay-offs.
Verster has cited load-shedding, Government’s short-sighted scrap metal sale policy and the chaotic condition of Transnet as necessitating Amsa to use expensive road transport instead of cheaper rail bulk transport as some of the causes of the cut-back decision.
Uncertainty shrouds the possible retrenchment burden on Amsa’s Vereeniging plant – the company stated only that it would affect its long-steel production capacity centred primarily in Newcastle and Vereeniging without stating the impact on the two regions or its rail entity in Mpumalanga.
For the first time known in a long history of restructuring stretching spanning over two decades, Amsa has referred to “indirect” job losses, meaning contractors who usually outnumber permanent employees several times over and have usually been treated as collateral damage.
Amsa’s Vereeniging long-steel plant has 224 permanent employees with an unknown number of contractors who can all be affected by the retrenchment plan to various degrees.
Despite the embattled steel company consulting a wide spectrum of stakeholders including Government, Unions and the Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM), it has not consulted with local business organisations and does not have plans to do so, Amsa told Vaalweekblad this week.
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 Amsa told Vaalweekblad 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.