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VWSA Workers Update April 8. 2000

The first stage of the legal process was held on Wednesday, April 5th 2000. This is what is called concilliation. Both parties meet, in the absence of lawyers, and try to approach each other's position. The company was completely negative: (see report). Depsite this supposed hard stance of the company, the Human Resources Director, BK Smith, telephoned the concilliation structure of the court, the so-called Commision for Concilliation, Mediation and Arbitration. the CCMA, on Friday, April 7th 2000. and asked why the matter had not been settled as the company needed the workers back by the Monday! There could be different interpretations to this call:

  1. that suddenly there was pressure from another part of the world pushing the company to a settlement (either from the workers worldwide or from the Board in Germany, once they had applied their minds to the union proposal) and/or
  2. that the concilliation process from the side of the govt was too slow (the govt has been trying steadily to gain influence in the crisis committee in order to claim a victory by getting some of the workers back to work) and the company is prepared to do a deal even with OCGAWU (the Oil, Chemical, General and Allied Workers Union) that all the workers outside have joined and increasing numbers inside are joining. (Remember, the VW company has lived through periods in countries where new labour movements and workers parties have come into existence, e.g. Brasil). Their sole interest is making profit.

The decisive factor is that there is very little production taking place despite all the expensive propaganda that the company is dishing out. We have received reports that the company is offering journalists free cell-phones and other perks if they present a "positive image" of the company. Several cars were turned away from dealers due to them having wrong parts. The only reason why there was a slight upturn in the production was because the company forced many of the permanent workers to work overtimen on weekends, on Saturday and Sunday (under threat of disciplining action against them).

We should be getting a report on Monday April 10th from the CCMA and then act on this basis.

Several of the casuals have been paid off, although some are working until April 13th, when their contracts expire.

We have received reports that the company is sending a combi to recruit workers that are from the paintshop and other departments as the company has a big problem in this area. This contract is being given to these people who are paid a commission of R500 per worker that they manage to get to come to work, despite the fact that they have been dismissed and the pending legal process. The company is trying to strengthen their hand by getting production up and then sidelining as many as possible that may be left outside. At the conciliation the company indicted that they may take the process up to the highest level, even if they lose the case.

The ANC held a regional conferece today, where the issue of the VWSA dismissals were going to be discussed. Some of the workers' representatives indicated they would resign from the ANC if the government did not solve the problem of the dismissals. They would also not mobilise for the local government elections and would not even register to vote. We have yet to receive a full report of the meeting. The ANC conference was also due to be attened by the Premier Stofile and the Minister of Intelligence, Joe Nhlanhla. The Premier has held several meetings in the region over the past few days.

They came with the position that they need to revive Numsa. The VWSA workers will have nothing of it. The local civics and the ANC vetrans are supporting the Uitenhage Crisis Committee for the 1300 workers to be reinstated. Recently the ANC local government councillors have come out in support of 1300 dismissed workers. Stofile will call a meeting within the next few days to work out a 'common' approach. The Crisis Committee has always welcomed any effort for the reinstatement but is not compromising the court process. Stofile has even stated the position that even if there is another union, then the ANC should try to get leadership of it. The presence of Nhlanhla was precisely to lay the ground against those perceived elements that are threatening the political dominance of the ANC forces.

(A few days ago, the Minister of Labour came out against supposed 'ultra-left' elements. The workers did not accept his criticism, coming as it was, 10 weeks into the struggle, beginning when workers called for mediation to solve this dispute).

The next few days will prove very interesting.

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