Johannesburg – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Thursday said it was "shocked at the news" that General Motors (GM) intends to pull the plug on its operations in South Africa.
Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim said GM informed "our members at a general meeting this morning that it is withdrawing from the South African market". As a result, production and sales of all Chevrolet models will cease, and Isuzu will take over the firm's operations in Port Elizabeth.
Isuzu will also be taking over the parts centre because it will continue manufacturing the Isuzu KB bakkie as well as its range of medium and heavy trucks. GM has confirmed that it intends for Isuzu to officially take over operations from January, 2018. Jim said there are more than 1000 employees at GM and 500 of those are based in the Chevrolet division.
"The vast majority of employees are Numsa members. As a trade union we are surprised that GM chose to convey this announcement in this way," said Jim. "There was no consultation with the union, and furthermore, the company has not divulged any details about the fate of its employees affected by this restructuring."
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He said shutting down operations in South Africa will have a major impact, not just on GM plants, but for companies along the value chain as well.
"We are concerned that GM has already indicated that it might retrench workers and that it intends to issue section 198 and 197.
"If these discussions are indeed taking place then it is likely that GM knows how many employees will be retained, and how many will be retrenched. We are expecting to meet with the management of GM soon to discuss these matters."
Jim said Numsa will consult lawyers on the way forward. "This is the second time that GM is pulling out of South Africa, and as Numsa, we smell a rat. We suspect that the shareholders got a very good deal at the expense of the workers."
Jim said the company had already shut down the plant and had indicated that it will meet with Numsa to discuss the latest developments.
"But this is after the fact," lamented Jim, adding "they acted unilaterally and did not inform the union of this decision. As a result, we are consulting lawyers to see what legal avenue we have in resolving this crisis. Isuzu will be taking over operations at GM, but we doubt that they will absorb all the workers who used to work at those plants.
"Now that GM has made it clear that it is disinvesting in the country, we will also probe whether this is not an agenda by the car company to dump the remainder of its cars on the South African market," added Jim.
"If they proceed with dumping, we will take up a campaign to prevent them in light of the fact that they are disinvesting in the country. We stand with our members during this difficult time."
African News Agency (ANA)