Labour probe launched after VWSA deaths

The Department of Labour ordered on Wednesday that all work stop on a construction site at Volkswagen SA’s (VWSA) Uitenhage plant while it investigates the deaths of three workers in a crane accident.

“Apart from requesting a swift and thorough report from the company on the exact cause of the accident, the Labour Department has ordered an immediate halt to all operations at the construction site until investigations have been completed,” a statement from the department read.

According to information the department has received, three employees of the construction company Grinaker-LTA died on Tuesday when a crane they were dismantling collapsed and they were trapped in the debris.

The condition of a fourth person admitted to the Uitenhage provincial hospital in a critical condition was not immediately known.

It is the fifth death on the site this year. In January, two workers plunged to their deaths from a shutter after their safety harnesses were not attached.

Grinaker-LTA was expected to issue a statement on Wednesday.

VWSA confirmed that construction has stopped on the construction site, but work continues at the vehicle-manufacturing plant. “Our plant is working, although we are about to stop for a minute’s silence out of respect,” VWSA spokesperson Bill Stephens said.

He would not comment specifically on the accident, referring queries to the construction company.

“Grinaker-LTA Construction are building a paint shop for VWSA.

“We are obviously as concerned and every step has been taken to address this issue.
We are constantly meeting with Grinaker-LTA in this regard,” Stephens said.

The two companies had meetings through the night following Tuesday’s accident, he said.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said the deaths caused worry about safety at VWSA.

“We are extremely devastated and depressed, it is really terrible. I am extremely worried about VW,” said Irvin Jim, Numsa provincial secretary. “Our view is that VW should take full, 100% [responsibility] for workers who work in the perimeter of VW.”

Referring enquiries to the contractor is “just a mechanical separation”.

He continued: “As far as I am concerned they are supposed to read the riot act to contractors given tenders, about safety.”

Minister of Labour Membathisi Mdladlana has expressed condolences to the families of the deceased workers.—Sapa

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