Trade union Solidarity has confirmed receipt of a Section 189A retrenchment notice from steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) and has indicated that it will enter negotiations with the company to ensure alternatives to retrenchments are considered.
On Tuesday, AMSA announced that it had initiated consultations with employees regarding a proposed business-restructuring programme that could result in job losses.
CEO Wim de Klerk did not provide an immediate estimate as to the number of workers who could be affected, but indicated that the restructuring could be classed as a possible large-scale retrenchment, owing to the fact that more than 50 jobs were potentially at risk.
The JSE-listed group, which has operations in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, employs over 8 600 people directly and more than 3 200 contractors.
AMSA insisted that the possible retrenchment of workers was part of a larger restructuring effort aimed at lowering costs and bolstering efficiencies in a context where the immediate outlook for the domestic steel market was bleak.
However, Solidarity slammed the restructuring plan as little more than a “smoke screen for retrenchments” and promised to do everything it could to prevent possible job losses.
Deputy general-secretary in the metal and engineering industry Marius Croucamp also warned that any job cuts would have a “major impact” on key steel towns, noting that AMSA remained the backbone for employment in the Vaal Triangle (66%), Newcastle (66%) and Saldanha Bay (25%).
The union, therefore, aimed to have “serious discussions” regarding alternatives to retrenchment, which should be considered as a “last resort”.
Croucamp noted that Solidarity had been supportive, through the ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign, of initiatives to sustain the domestic steel sector, including the institution of import protection. “We are going to work together with AMSA to ensure the company’s sustainability.”