Featured Article, General News, South Africa

General Motors “exit!” to affect thousands of Numsa members

A worker at a General Motors plant’s assembly line. Picture: twitter

Thousands of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members to be affected by General Motors South Africa’s (GMSA) ‘s exit from South Africa at the end of the year.

United States vehicle manufacture General Motors announced this week that it will quit its operations in South Africa at the end of 2017. The move which received a lot of criticism from Labour union Numsa which most of their members will be affected.

The company employs over 1900 employees of which majority are Numsa members and it the move to leave the South Africa succeed about 2000 members of the Metalworkers union will be retranched.

Numsa on Thursday said it was “shocked at the news” that General Motors (GM) intends to pull the plug on its operations in the country due to the lack of growth opportunities to focus more on profitable markets.

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.

Numsa General Secretary 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.”

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.

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.”

General Motors has had a presence in South Africa since 1926, under various brands such as Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, ISUZU, Oakland, Oldsmobile and Vauxhall.

Given the intense competition in the South African market, especially after 1994, GM has had some difficulties including:

  • The GMSA plant not meeting the initial annual minimum production volume of 50 000 units set under the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) since 2013;
  • Sales have been on a downward trend for the past 5 years; and
  • Exports remained low at about 2 000 vehicles per annum with a maximum of 3 500 units.

General Motors had already began with shut down the plant in Port Elizaberth and will meet with Numsa to discuss the latest developments.

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