Pfisterer to lay off 50 employees

2014-09-19 00:00

PFISTERER South Africa, a Pietermaritzburg company taken over by the ANC’s investment arm Chancellor House, is laying off more than 50 employees and apparently shutting down its aluminium casting department.

A senior manager, who would not be named, said the company was closing down the aluminium casting section because it did not have work.

Operators who have been with the company for more than 10 years told The Witness that Pfisterer, a supplier to Eskom, was giving them two options.

“We can either take two-month lay-offs without any pay, or take voluntary severance packages,” he said.

He said it would be difficult to be away from work for two months without knowing what the future held.

“So most of us are taking voluntary severance, but we are frustrated that the union had not informed us that we were going to be retrenched,” he said.

Others said they only found out this week that they should have made up their minds on which option to take by today.

The Numsa members had a heated argument with shop stewards for failing to address them on the issue and give them more time to weigh their options.

The Witness reported earlier this year that the takeover by Chancellor House had left the company in turmoil. Retrenchments, a restriction on key exports, fears of major job losses, and a standstill in some factory divisions had followed.

The company had been under the caretaker stewardship of a parent company director, Kai Steinfeld, during the sale negotiations since its long-time managing director, Rob Schorn, was forced to resign last July.

Earlier this year, key staff said five highly skilled artisans were retrenched and three tool-makers had resigned.

Disgruntled staff said they began experiencing problems with machinery, which regularly broke down, within four months of the changes.

“Under Rob Schorn we had no problems, but now the company has decided to retrench us like dogs,” said one man, adding they were told their work could be done cheaper in China.


PFISTERER MD Dr Kai Steinfeld said the company is financially healthy, has a promising future and is not at risk.

“The company operations include several technologies/departments and product lines, each of which is subject to specific business cycles,” he said, adding the present situation and changes are within these business cycles.

“In addition to the business cycles, we now feel the negative impact of the four-week strike,” he said, referring to a month-long national Numsa strike in July.

Steinfeld said the permanent shutdown of the aluminium foundry was not planned. “The aluminium gravity casting exercised in this department is a core technology of the company,” he said.

Steinfeld said the company had strictly followed all rules and regulations and had informed the workers of their options within the legally required timeframe.

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