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Yesterday , 28.01.01 there was a rally held in Jabavu stadium to thank the community of Uitenhage for their outstanding support over the past 12 months since the mass dismissal on the 3rd Feb 2000. It was attended by over 3000 people. There were various representatives from factories in UItenhage, who also pledged support. It was reported that the workers at the Engine building plant of Ford had signed up for OCGAWU, as well as another Cotton Mill factory. In total a total of close to 450 workers had joined the union just only on the saturday.

Secondly, for the first time it was publicly announced that the Uitenhage Crisis Committee was disbanded. This was in accordance with a previous decision of the VWSA dismissed workers that the time had come for this. The UCC was thanked for the ground work that they had done in the past that had now laid the basis for OCGAWU especially in the Eastern Cape region . It was decided that the history of the UCC would be written up as part of the history of OCGAWU.

It was enthusiastically acknowledged that the activists and workers especially in Germany had played a major role in the struggle up to now, in the way of spreading news of the struggle as well as the tremendous financial support that had sustained the general meetings. Overall, the support from all corners of the globe had helped to sustain the unity of the workers outside and rebuild the unity and confidence of the workers of VWSA inside. In the past week, OCGAWU held a general meeting on the premises of VWSA to say thank you to all the workers inside. This was attended by over 2000 workers and workers formed several queues in order to sign up. OCGAWU is now the majority union and NUmsa has been excluded from the plant production meetings as even management can now see that the Numsa shopstewards only represent their jackets.

We now enter the danger period , where we anticipate that VW may either harden their stance or soften it as regards the return date of the 5th Feb 2001. In order for VW to stop the implementation of the CCMA order of the return to work they would have to interdict the workers. In order for the union to oppose this requires resources and the workers have appealed to one and all for urgent financial assistance. Please, in future deal directly with the OCGAWU head office with regards to contributions, unless advised otherwise by the mandate of the dismissed workers. All organisations , the students, the women, the civics and many individuals were thanked. A special thanks was given to one of the local high schools, Thanduxolo, for their ongoing assistance by providing at crucial stages their school hall for meetings of workers, especially when other funds had dried up.

A special resolution was reconfirmed on the temps who had now all lost their jobs. The meeting adopted that they are workers too and as such VW had a social responsibility to also take care of them. The union had to defend their rights. Most of them are young workers and we need to protect their future as well. VW had just announced a further investment of billions of rand over the next 5 years and they should cater for all affected workers. A key point was that during the past period VW openly stated that the area would not be affected by the mass dismissal in that all the workers would be replaced. It was long ago discovered that the temps had signed contracts binding them that should the dismissed workers be reinstated then this was grounds for terminating the temps. This was one of the factors raised by the arbitrator in his ruling. He stated clearly that VW had not based any argument on a breakdown of relation with the dismissed workers. On the contrary, their actions had shown there was no reakdown as they made provision for the return of the workers.

The combined years of service of the workers are just over 20 000 years and this is a strong factor in favour of the workers. The workers recommitted themselves to better the record target that been achieved in 1999 and to provide the quality that had been a hallmark of their work in the past. A strong factor in why the workers should return to work was that an appeal by the company against the CCMA ruling would send a negative signal that investor confidence is built up through denying workers a right to a hearing. The right to a hearing is enshrined in the highest court of the land, the Labour Appeal Court as well as in the Constitution. One of the outstanding features of the case was that despite the workers having met virtually under the noses of the management, they failed to call them to a hearing to explain why they should not be dismissed. The arbitrator ruled that just one such invitation would ahev been enough. It was not sufficient to meet union officials whom it was abundantly clear, the strikers had a dispute with and who did not carry their mandate, especially on the crucial issue of dismissal.

The VWSA workers, inside and outside the plant are making a call that VW should be pressurised to accept the ruling so that the devastation in the town over the past year can be corrected. [Municipal income has dropped by 50% immediately after the mass dismissal and over 8000 school children directly and indirectly have had their education severely affected as well, etc]

Please send all copies of messages of support and protest to our address and copied to the OCGAWU Head office.

issued by the OCGAWU UItenhage local ph/fax: 27 41 9220309; e-mail:

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