Angry, disappointed and disrespected.
This was the collective feeling among the nearly 500 local artisans, who gathered to protest outside ArcelorMittal Newcastle Works Tuesday (October 30).
The artisans claim they were informed only 35 per cent of local artisans would be employed by a sub-contractor of the steel giant for a two-day shutdown, expected to take place in November.
“Why would you employ people from other provinces when there are hundreds of skilled workers right here who need jobs and are more than capable doing the jobs required?”
According to Nhlakanipho Mhlanga, the artisans from Newcastle, oSizweni and Madadeni voiced their concerns outside ArcelorMittal, hoping this situation would be rectified.
“We have hundreds of skilled and qualified artisans right here in our very own community, but instead of giving us jobs, they went ahead and hired outsiders. How is this fair? What about us? How are we supposed to feed our families if we cannot make ends meet, and we cannot make ends meet if we do not have work!”
Thuli Nkosi explained how hard it was for her to find a job, and said it meant she could not look after her two children, her mother and her four siblings, who looked to her for a steady income to survive.
“I completed my studies here and even did my training within ArcelorMittal, but I was never hired and now to find out that outsiders have been given jobs instead of us is disappointing; it has negative implications on our own people.”
Vuyo Mtawa of ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) Head Office: Corporate Communications said that as the leading steel producer in southern and sub-Saharan Africa, the company took its role as a significant contributor to the national economy very seriously.
“The company is also cognizant of its impact on the socio-economic development of local communities and, as such, makes a considerable effort to hire employees from communities from around ArcelorMittal South Africa’s operations.”
However, she added there were instances where specialised skills not readily available in the local community, were required for specific projects.
“This is the situation at AMSA’s Newcastle Works, where a short-term contractor has been appointed for a very specific project that requires specialist skills and experience in order to complete the task within a very short time frame. Yet, in line with AMSA’s requirements, the contractor has hired around 35 per cent [more than 50 people] of the general labour required for this project from the local community.”
AMSA is currently facilitating engagement between all the parties involved, to find a mutually agreeable resolution.
Despite AMSA promising to address the concerns of residents, hundreds of local artisans are now waiting patiently until they are given an opportunity to earn an honest living, by being given job opportunities within their own community.
The Newcastle Advertiser is following this story and will keep you updated.
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