Labour & business in bid to stop steel jobs bloodbath

Cape Town - Labour and business were scheduled to meet with government representatives in Pretoria on Friday in a bid to stem massive job losses the steel sector faces in the coming months.

"The meeting was requested by labour and business amidst the looming jobs loss bloodbath" in the steel sector, said the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in a statement issued on Friday.

ArcelorMittal is considering the closure of its plant in Vereeniging, while other major companies such as Evraz Highveld Steel in Mpumalanga and Scaw Metals Group are intending to retrench thousands of workers, said Numsa.

It added that the meeting is the culmination of a joint initiative between labour and business to address challenges the sector faces with government. "Labour and business have joined forces to engage government on the possible interventions needed to be implemented to avoid this sector from further shrinking and shedding more jobs," said the union.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said: “The agenda of this meeting is to get a firm commitment from government to reassess their policies which are sweeping away jobs in the steel industry and might lead to workers and their families having to live without a plate of food on the table."

Dumping by China 'destroys jobs'

Jim said that although the meeting is about defending jobs, Numsa's most important aim is for government to have a change of heart in relation to the reintroduction of steel price tariffs.

"The country’s political alliance with China is becoming problematic for our economy and workers in particular," said Jim. "The dumping of steel by the Chinese in our country is destroying jobs, so we need government’s intervention."

Government needs to champion a "radical re-industrialisation agenda" as the manufacturing sector has the potential to grow the country's economy to create much-needed jobs, said Jim.

Labour and business are to hold a joint media briefing on Monday to share the outcome of the meeting, said Numsa.