While many millions are celebrating the Easter weekend, the 1300 VWSA dismissed workers and their families are left without even a loaf of bread. In the past week, on Wednesday, the collective date was due for the workers to get their Unemployment benefits. In SA, any worker who worked for three months and are dismissed for any reason are entitled to claim Unemployment benefits. This happens even if you are challenging your employer on the unfainess of the case. However, the dept of Labour adopted a different strategy in the case of the VWSA workers. They refused to pay out unemployment benefits after workers have registered for unemployement and they received dates unpon which the payments were going to be made. Their reason for refusal to pay out the benefits is because the workers have a pending legal process and thus have to wait until after the case. This is total nonsence because it never happenned before and the case can take months or years before it is resolved. This is the first time ever that Dept of Labour officials have done this. Many times the legal process takes 6 months or even years, and workers are never denied the right to draw their unemployed benefits. The only interpretation of this event is that the State has openly sided with the VWSA bosses to drive the workers into starvation in order to break their spirit and unity!
In the meantime, the date for the next step in the court proceedings have been set for 15th-19th May 2000 in a public venue in Uitenhage. Despite the company public position that they will not take back any worker, the Uitenhage Crisis Committee is still receiving reports of individual workers being called back to work. In the meantime, the amount of lorries carrying scrap from the plant to the scrapyards have reached record proportions, running from 6am until 10pm, whereas in the past there was hardly any scrap. The workers in plant are reporting to the cirisis committee that the production is very low whilst the company is stating that the production is normal.
On the 5th April, despite the workers going the extra mile to conciliate with the company, their representatives were only interested in discovering the legal strategy of the workers. The workers came up with creative proposals but the company representatives were clearly incapable and inept. The workers proposed even a further round of conciliation, but the company reps were not interested in using this legal step at all. Their public intransigent stance can only be seen as laying the ground for Provincial govt officials to be seen to be 'rescuing' the situation. The Premier, Stofile, went on record for the first time on a local radio station that the workers should be reinstated. He is due to visit the area again in the week. He had been camping in Uitenhage and meeting different groups including the 13 shopstewards and the Uitenhage Crisis Committee.
As from the start in January 2000, the Crisis Committee is open to mediation to resolve the dispute, as long as it does not prejudice their rights in general.
All media, printed, visual and audio, be they local or international, are invited to cover the arbitration process and may contact the Chairperson of the Crisis Committee for further details.
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