800 metalworkers face job losses

About 800 workers face retrenchment at BHP Billiton's Bayside aluminium smelter in Richards Bay, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said yesterday.

Spokesman Mziwakhe Hlangani said company management had confirmed that it would issue final notices to the affected workers at the weekend and the retrenchments would be effected next Tuesday.

The retrenchments follow Eskom's demand that big electricity consumers reduce their power consumption by 10percent.

He said the drastic decision to lay off metalworkers took place at a time when Numsa had made earnest appeals to the ANC and the minerals and energy parliamentary committee to intervene as planned retrenchments were connected to the countrywide power crisis.

Rather than ensuring that other feasible alternatives were considered, such as buying big industrial power generators, the largest resource company once said that it planned to relocate its smelters to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the union charged.

Numsa said it had always been aware that the closure of smelters in the town would affect more than 20000 families. For that reason the union called on the government and other stakeholders to urgently adopt a social plan, because the area would be negatively affected. - Sapa