Numsa threatens to bring Ford production to a halt over ‘unpaid bonuses’

Workers at Ford Silverton’s assembly plant in Pretoria. SUPPLIED

Workers at Ford Silverton’s assembly plant in Pretoria. SUPPLIED

Published Jul 3, 2024


By Nicola Mawson

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has threatened to down tools at Ford South Africa over a dispute concerning bonuses, which could bring production at the vehicle-maker to a halt across the country.

Numsa’s national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told Business Report yesterday that it was likely that most workers will go on strike from tomorrow given that the union is the only recognised union at Ford South Africa.

“We are asking for a bonus. We are not specifying the amount at this time,” she said.

In a statement issued by Numsa’s secretary-general Irvin Jim, the union yesterday said Ford had “made a fortune” over the past four years globally, and could “definitely afford some kind of bonus”.

Citing Macrotrends, Jim said Ford’s gross profit was $25.137 billion (R467.2bn) in the year to March 31, 2024 – a 0.45% year-on-year increase.

Ford, which dates its time in South Africa back to 1923 when it started assembling Model T cars in a disused wool shed in then Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha), directly employs about 5 500 people in SA, and indirectly supports around 60 000 jobs within the value chain as of 2022.

Since 2009, it has invested about R27.4bn into its local operations.

Numsa served Ford South Africa the 48-hour notice to strike after the two parties failed to reach an agreement during a conciliation process held on June 11 at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in Pretoria.

The union said this then resulted in a certificate to strike being issued.

“Numsa has given Ford an opportunity to rethink its stand, but to date they have not come to the party,” Jim said in a statement.

“Ford is refusing to share its profits with workers. Our members are the creators of wealth and Ford has benefited hugely from the sweat and labour of the workers.”

Jim added that, “Ford management pretends not to understand the demand and they keep claiming it is ‘impermissible’ and they claim that workers have no right to demand bonuses. We reject this with the contempt it deserves.”

In response to Numsa, Ford South Africa said that consistency in production was vital when it makes investments, and the union action that affects manufacturing also adversely affects South Africa’s global competitiveness.

Ford SA’s spokesperson Minesh Bhagaloo said the company was requesting that non-striking employees work from home for the duration of the strike.

The duration of the labour action is currently not known.

“Ford has a long-term commitment to South Africa and has invested heavily in its operations and local employees. Regrettably, production disruptions have a profound impact on South Africa’s economy and global reputation as a place to do business,” Bhagaloo said.

“When making decisions about future investment, consistency of production is vital to maintaining competitiveness and an important factor when determining manufacturing locations,” he said.

Ford added that it hoped all staff members will return to work as soon as possible.