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the arbitration of the 1386 vwsa workers dismissed around the 3rd february this year started off from 15-19 may. only one witness has thus far been heard - bk smith the human resource director of vwsa.

the case has been adjourned to 31 july - 11 august. in the meantime the workers have won their appeal to claim their unemployment benefits.after staging sit-ins at the edpt of labour in port elizabeth and uitenhage their payments were fast-tracked and the whole of this past week [28may - 1 june] workers have eventually received their first payments.

in the arbitration so far there has been a number of interesting revelations:

1. it merged that Numsa asked the company to dismiss the 13 shop-stewards from employment;

2. the ex-president of cosatu [gomomo] the numsa officials and the ANC secretary general [ kgalema motlanthe] had a secret meeting with the vwsa bosses on the 29th january, where they agreed with the company stance on dismissing the workers.

3. on the 20th january, the company wrote to the minister of labour and asked for his intervention. it turned out that his regional director also had secret meetings with the company. the only 'mediation' from the ministry was to condemn the workers. he had never personally spoken to the workers to hear his side of the story

4. the company claimed to issue 50 000 leaflets which they sent via a pamphlet distribution company to the community, while the workers who were gathereing daily about 4-500m from the premises never received any such notices [the so-called ultimatum]

5. the company disciplinary policy states that hearings should be held but the company never gave any worker any chance to state their case.

6. tv footage shows vavi, the general secretary of cosatu, say on the 2nd of february, that he would try to mediate. in fact workers were waiting for him to come back. the only thing he did was to condemn the workers on the day of the ultimatum [3 feb]

7. the informal workers committee of the workers tried to meet the company on the 25th may to resolve the dispute but they were rebuffed.

8. on the 24 january and 28th january the crisis committee representing the workers made the call for medation but they were rebuffed by the company.

9. even since the dismissal, the workers continued to make representations for mediation but this was rebuffed.

10. gomomo brought offers by the company for from 700 to 1000 workers to be reinstated while the company made a deal with numsa to offer packages for those workers who were not taken back. [the company outlined plans to reduce their workforce to 3000 by 2002 from the current over 6000]

11.the company claims that numsa has over 2000 members still at the plant, whereas they claim ocgawu, the oil chemical general and allied workers union, that is giving solidarity with the fighting workers, has only 150. [today ocgawu handed over 1123 membership forms to the company and submitted 1805 resignation forms from ex-numsa at vwsa for processing]

12. there were several times when it was clear that the HR director of the company was lying unde oath. eg he claimed not to have any knowledge of internal disputes within the union, yet the company sponsored a conference for the union to work through their problems and vwsa published the resolutions of the conference in their own in-plant newspaper! this HR this multinational could not even explain what a fair disciplinary procedure is.

even though the legal team for the workers were readily available to convene soon, the company lawyers were not available, hence the long delay for the reconvening of the arbitration.

today the crisis committee and ocgawu met with the regional director of labour who said he would revert on the possibility of mediation even at this late stage. he confirmed the arrangements that had already been made with his regional and local officials on the unemployment payouts. he confirmed that he had had private meetings with the company and numsa. He took a short briefing from the workers.

for further information please contact the ocgawu office in uitenhage
78 constitution str, uitenhage , south africa
ph [27] 41 9925489
fax [27] 41 9220309

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