GMSA to oppose Numsa's court bid

General Motors South Africa (GMSA) will on Thursday oppose a Labour Court bid by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) to have retrenched workers reinstated.

The case was due to be heard in the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Thursday.

GMSA’s vice-president of human resources, Chris Thexton, said the vehicle manufacturer had followed an extensive consultation process with the union and other employee representatives.

“In most instances employees have exited under a voluntary separation plan, leaving a total of 140 hourly and 48 salaried forced retrenchments to be implemented in the April to December 2009 time frame,” said Thexton.

This was “relative to an overall reduction of 1 400 hourly and 300 salaried positions from early 2008 to late 2009”, he said.

GMSA had continuously sought opportunities to achieve the required cuts while avoiding forced retrenchment, said Thexton.

It would continue to work with the Numsa leadership and employee representatives in this regard, he added.

Numsa is demanding that GMSA reinstate all the workers that it “wrongfully” retrenched since April 2009.

Numsa also wants a moratorium on retrenchments as well as consultation “in good faith” so that alternatives to retrenchments could be adopted.

The union said in a statement that GMSA had “destroyed over 1 300 jobs since 2007 through retrenchments and worthless separation packages”.

Numsa said GMSA had “insincerely” assured South Africans that the liquidation of its parent company in the United States would not affect local operations.

“But this company has since shut down the production lines of Hummer in Port Elizabeth, thereby forcing more retrenchments without regard to alternatives,” said Numsa.

It had therefore approached the Labour Court to seek relief.

If this failed, the union would go on a strike that “GMSA would never forget”, it said.

New car sales have plunged in South Africa amid the global financial crisis, which has seen General Motors in the United States filing for court protection from creditors under the US Bankruptcy Code.

The US government is now buying GM’s “good assets” and providing it with an additional $30-billion so it can get back on its feet.—Sapa


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