Hulamin to shed jobs

2013-03-20 00:00

TIMES are tough and Hulamin is set to retrench up to 160 workers to stay afloat, in a move that could affect more than 600 people.

The figure is an estimate based on the South African average family of between four and five members.

In a notice to workers, CEO Richard Jacob said the company was forced to reduce costs due to difficult economic times and increasing operating costs.

“When markets are weak and prices are under pressure, this requires the business to reduce costs,” he said.

He said the company’s electricity bill had increased by about R72 million a year since 2008, and the salary bill by R177 million a year.

“These operating cost increases are likely to continue and we are of the view that in order for the company to maintain a competitive sustainable path into the future, it is necessary to reduce overheads significantly,” he added.

The company has already retrenched 20 workers in the last 12 months and more could be laid off if Hulamin’s results for the year ended December 31, 2012, are anything to go by.

“Improved operating performance remains a key priority and opportunities to improve cost competitiveness further are being identified,” the company said in its results.

In a statement to The Witness yesterday, Hulamin spokesperson Hector Molale said: “The right-sizing of the organisational structure is required to meet the company’s growth and development objectives in the challenging trading environment, in a sustainable way.”

The KZN regional secretary of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, Mbuso Ngubane, said Numsa would meet Hulamin management to find ways to save the threatened jobs.

“We are trying to make sure that the workers do not lose their jobs. With the information that we have, we will look at how we can save these jobs.”

Economist Kwanele Gumbi said the impact of possible job losses would be huge since prices “of everything” have recently gone up.

“For someone whose salary is already under strain to lose their job, that could have huge multiplying effects.”

One worker on average represented a family of five, said Gumbi.

Most companies were in distress in the current economic climate, he added.

Bheko Madlala, a spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu, said businesses should explore all avenues before embarking on retrenchments.

“While we understand that the difficult global economic climate has forced many companies to review their operational plans in order to keep afloat, we believe that the retrenchment of staff should be avoided at all costs.

“We urge all social partners, including labour and business, to find creative ways to save jobs while improving efficiencies,” said Madlala.

Global markets are subdued and the competitiveness of South Africa’s manufacturing sector continues to be affected by rising costs and competition from lowly priced imports, say analysts.

Numsa, however, still believes the jobs at Hulamin could be saved.

“Under abnormal circumstances, those in authority in running companies have a responsibility to review their business processes. We’ll then come in and we’ll have to push together with the companies to see what can be done,” Ngubane said.

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