Seifsa chief irresponsible to share Ford chief’s chat

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It is doubtful that the truth will ever fully emerge about the conversation between the chief executive of the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa), Kaizer Nyatsumba, and Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa president and chief executive Jeff Nemeth over the ongoing strike in the metal fabrication industry.

In a written statement issued by Seifsa earlier this month, Nyatsumba revealed that he had received a call from the chief executive of a major car manufacturing company based in South Africa, who had expressed concern about the impact of the strike on his company.

Nyatsumba said the chief executive had informed him that he was under “considerable pressure” from his head office in the US to close operations in South Africa and to move them to a country with a more stable labour dispensation.

Ford and General Motors are the two US-based vehicle manufacturers in South Africa. Seifsa subsequently confirmed that Nyatsumba was referring to a conversation he had with Nemeth.

Jim Benintende, the president of Ford Middle East and Africa, denied yesterday that Ford had been putting such pressure on its executives in South Africa.

Nemeth confirmed that he had spoken to Nyatsumba and had indicated that it was fine for Seifsa “to share” what they had spoken about.

But Nemeth declined to comment on the specific comments made by Nyatsumba because negotiations between Seifsa and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) to end the three-week strike were still continuing.

He also sidestepped a question posed by Business Report on Ford’s views about another organisation making an announcement on its behalf.

Nyatsumba was criticised by Numsa, so much so that Seifsa issued a specific statement to express confidence in him.

Although Ford was not prepared to state so itself, Nyatsumba’s comments were highly irresponsible. After all, it should surely be left to a company to make whatever announcements it feels are necessary about its operations.

Even more so when they possibly relate to whether it is considering disinvesting from the country.

Agreement

Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) should be lauded for reaching a three-year wage deal amicably. It is not every day that employers and unions agree on a wage settlement without a protracted strike, especially in South Africa’s volatile mining industry.

RBPlat had been negotiating with the NUM, the majority union at the company, since July last year. The agreement was signed yesterday.

It is a major victory for the NUM, which has gone from hero to zero at the country’s major platinum producers after being ousted as the majority union following the labour unrest of August 2012.

Tshimane Montoedi, the NUM’s deputy general secretary, told the media that the agreement “compares favourably” with the one signed by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union with the three platinum majors.

It is worth noting that RBPlat is one of the few stable companies in the sector, which was unscathed by the wildcat strikes of 2012 and the recent five-month strike.

Steve Phiri, RBPlat’s chief executive, noted that the relationship between labour and management was one of mutual trust and respect. He said that it made the first move, and approached the NUM before talks started, and had tweaked them since.

“We don’t say this is the demand, but we talk with one another,” he said.

When it comes to constructing homes for its employees, RBPlat has taken a different path compared with its peers. The company has built up-market units for its employees 3km away from the Waterfall Mall in Rustenburg. Apparently, the employees chose the venue and the design of the houses.

Edited by Banele Ginindza. With contributions by Roy Cokayne and Dineo Faku.


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