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NUMSA meeting: Over 600 workers face job uncertainty after GMSA exit

May 23, 2017
NUMSA meeting: Over 600 workers face job uncertainty after GMSA exit

The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) is expected on Tuesday to hold an urgent General Meeting for all workers, who were working at General Motors South Africa's Struandale plant, including those with pending cases against the GMSA.

The meeting, which will be held at the Nangoza Jebe (Centenary Hall) in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, comes after it emerged that nearly 600 workers will lose their jobs following General Motors South Africa's decision to sell light commercial vehicle manufacturing plant in Struandale to Japanese auto-maker, Isuzu.

Around 2 000 workers were employed by GM at the plant - more were employed by companies servicing its value chain. Hence, job losses may go beyond the 600.

GM intends to cease local manufacturing and selling Chevrolet vehicles in the domestic market by the end of 2017.

Following the recent announcement of the sale of Opel/Vauxhall to the PSA Group, GM said that it continues to work with PSA to evaluate future opportunity for the Opel brand in South Africa. It said that, existing Chevrolet and Opel customers will continue to be supported in the market.

Read the full GM South Africa announcement here.

GM began producing Chevrolet vehicles in South Africa in 1926, but divested from the country in 1985. It then returned in 1997. Together with Volkswagen, it became one of the region's biggest employers.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metro aims at creating over 17 000 jobs

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality over the weekend said that it is aiming to create 17 289 work opportunities in the 2017/18 financial year - and hopes to absorb even those workers, who will have lost their jobs at GM.

Nelson Mandela Bay Buusiness Chamber

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber on Thursday said that it was saddened that GM was leaving but also welcomed news that Isuzu Motors intends to purchase the former's manufacturing operations at Struandale, Port Elizabeth.

"The Business Chamber believes it appropriate to thank and acknowledge our longstanding partner and member company GMSA for its substantial support over the past number of years - not only for the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber as an organisation, but also for our member companies and the region’s economy as a whole," said Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber Deputy President, MC Botha.

"Whilst we are saddened that GMSA will cease local manufacturing, we look forward to a greater understanding of the PSA Group purchase of Opel/Vauxhall.

"We welcome the news that the new Isuzu business model intends to have continued manufacturing in Nelson Mandela Bay and look forward to building on our partnership with Isuzu Motors in Nelson Mandela Bay."

Botha said that as greater details emerge of the deal, the Business Chamber expresses the sincere hope that all efforts will be made to ensure that the Isuzu acquisition of the GMSA business operations will have minimal impact on the local economy in terms of the knock-on effect on suppliers and employment in the region.

Trade and Industry Minister regrets GM's exit

Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, responded to General Motors South Africa’s decision to exit South Africa with regret and concern for the jobs and livelihoods that will be affected.

“The Minister has learnt of the announcement by General Motors South Africa (Pty) Ltd to cease some of their operations in South Africa with regret and concern for the numerous employees whose jobs and livelihood will be directly and indirectly affected as a result,” said the Department of Trade and Industry.

In addition, the Minister noted that the decision by General Motors as part of a broader, international strategic position by the company to exit certain markets and focus the organisation on target markets and products.

This, said the Minister, is evidence through recent activities like pulling out of Europe in 2017 (Opel, Vauxhall brand sold to Peugeot SA) and the closure of a plant in Halol, India, in April 2017.

Other activities include exiting Australia, in 2013, where there was a joint venture with Holden, the closure of a plant in Indonesia in 2015, as well as recent pronouncements by General Motors CEO Mary Barra that the focus of the organisation will in future be orientated towards the development and production of autonomous vehicles, electrification and connectivity.

“It should also be noted that the emerging global geo-political dynamics might have a bearing on some business decisions being made such as the recent confirmation of additional investment in the US coupled with further move of some parts production from Mexico.”

General Motors has had a presence in South Africa since 1926, under various brands such as Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, ISUZU, Oakland, Oldsmobile and Vauxhall.... Read the Minister's full response here.

A vote of no confidence

The Democratic Alliance (DA), however, said that GM South Africa's announcement was a vote of no confidence in the current government

"According to GM, it is withdrawing because the South Africa can no longer 'provide GM with the expected returns of other global investment opportunities'," quoted Geordin Hill-Lewis MP - DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry.

"Following the President’s reckless midnight cabinet reshuffle, and the subsequent ratings downgrade of our economy, GM’s withdrawal is sadly just one of a growing list of foreign investors who are fast losing confidence in our struggling economy.

"GM currently employs 2 000 South Africans at its plant in Port Elizabeth, and their withdrawal will threaten the livelihoods of all of these workers."