Uitenhage Crisis Committee


re: Invitation to attend the arbitration proceedings of the case of 1300 VWSA dismissed workers from the 15th-19th May 2000, and request for solidarity


Firstly, we would like to thank you for the support that you have given us to date. It is really heartening to know that internationalism is alive and well. You are invited to attend the court proceedings of the case of the 1300 workers dismissed from the VW plant in South Africa [Uitenhage]. The case will take place in Uitenhage itself and will be open to the public as well as the press.

The dismissal of the 1300 workers is a huge blow to the community at Uitenhage as unemployment in the area is already at over 60% of the adult population. Up to now, due to the huge resources that the VW company has, only its side of the events have been presented to the world. By you attending will enable you to hear both sides of the events, and more importantly, for us, for the first time you would be able to get detailed first hand knowledge of the workers' version of events.

This case takes place against a backdrop of 2 important facts:

1. The company had some time ago announced a plan to retrench over half the workforce, reducing it from over 6000 down to about 3000 by the year 2002.

2. Partnership of unions and companies invariably leads to the union forgetting its role and becoming the voice of the company within the workers movement. Under these circumstances the union goes as far as acting against its own members, even if this means breaking basic principles of trade union democracy. The union in question is the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

Some key points:

The workers will demonstrate and lead evidence of:

a) How over an extended period the VW bosses and the Numsa officials and leadership colluded to sign agreements without mandate of the workers, of terms that fundamentally changed conditions of work for the worse.

b) how the VW bosses and Numsa officials worked hand in hand to replace shopstewards who had been democratically elected by the majority of workers.

c) how the VW bosses and Numsa worked together to dismiss the workers.

These were just some of the reasons which led to the workers resigning from Numsa and many of them joining an independent union, the Oil, Chemical, General and Allied Workers Union, Ocgawu. Today Numsa has so few members that they are not even recognised by the VW management. It is only a matter of time before Ocgawu gets the majority of the workers at the plant as it already has many more members than Numsa.

As VW is a multinational company, it is important that its practices come under scrutiny, no matter where in the world it may operate. No company is infallible and we must ensure that standards are maintained which are compatible with the democratic values that all of us strive for.

The international press have also been invited and several have confirmed their attendance. Should you be able to contact any progressive member of the press, please extend our invitation to them as well to attend the proceedings. We have invited any VW worker or worker representative from anywhere in the world to attend. Our contacts are limited and we would appreciate you spreading news of this event to others in the labour movement as well.

We unfortunately are unable to fund the travel expenses for the trip, but are hoping that if you have the means or able to organise such, that you would be able to attend. We will avail ourselves to provide you with whatever practical contact numbers and such details as you may require. Should you wish to speak to any representative of Ocgawu as they are the representative union in VW, Uitenhage , please feel free to contact their office at any stage at the number below.

Should you be unable to attend, we would appreciate a message of support sent to us before the 15th May, so that we could present these at the proceedings to focus the mind of the arbitrator. The Crisis Committee is also busy with a programme of action that will culminate in activities, marches and protests during the days of the arbitration. Should there be any other form of solidarity action that would assist the 1300 VWSA workers to get reinstated, this will be welcomed.

Lastly, but not least, we are in need of funds to cover the travel costs for the 5 days of the 1300 workers as well as the last preparatory meetings before the case. We estimate that we have a shortfall of about $2700. Any contribution towards the covering of these vital expenses will be sincerely appreciated. The account details are as follows:

Name of Bank: First National Bank
Name of account: Uitenhage Crisis Committee
type of account: cheque
account no:62014977732
branch code:21 03 16
branch address: Caledon Str, Uitenhage, South Africa
swiftcode for quick transfers: firnzajj397
Once again our heartfelt thanks and we shall keep you informed of developments.

Yours in the struggle

WM Ndandani
ph 0826265298
ph/fax: [27] 41 9925489 [ note that this is also the local Ocgawu contact number]
e-mail: fmsaba@hot.co.za

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