Hey there Irv,
I see that you have been quite vocal in the press of late, regarding BMW, and their withdrawal of a proposal to expand their Rosslyn plant, in the face of the latest, protracted strike. If I get the message right, you are saying that the workers and NUMSA will not be ‘blackmailed’ into ending the strike (or presumably, not striking in future). Also, you seem to be of the opinion that investors in South Africa are somehow obliged to continue with certain investments in the country.
Here’s a quick lesson on business for you, Irv. Private capital goes into business to make money. Shareholders expect growth in their holdings, brought about by the success of the company, evidenced by performance and sentiment. Whilst they remain invested, they also expect regular returns, aka dividends. Dividends are a function of profit.
Yes sir, companies like BMW are in it for profit. They most certainly would like to keep their costs (in particular, labour) low, but at the same time they recognise that their workforce is an asset. To cry ‘exploitation in the name of profit!’ is sensationalist and misleading.
Compare this model, making profit through sound business principles, with the model espoused by the leftists, your mates in the ANC and COSATU. There are numerous state-owned entities we can look at as examples. SAA, Eskom, Telkom, municipalities, Transnet. In a competitive market, where they cannot rely on monopoly status or never ending funding from Pravin Gordhan, how would they do? Short answer… not very well.
So, my advice, leave the business of business to companies that know how it’s done.
The hoary old ‘Apartheid’ chestnut
There’s also been some chat bandied about, that BMW, having remained invested in South Africa during the bad ol’ 1980s, has a moral obligation to further investment in South Africa; by implication, they need to re-instate their bid for the unnamed new model, with the hope of creating more jobs, etc.
How’s this though… Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen also remained invested in South Africa. VW own Audi. Now take a look at which three brands of luxury German car are most favoured by Number 1, his wives and children, ministers, mayors, premiers, MPs etc, i.e. all those tri-partite alliance functionaries deployed to ‘serve the people’ (sic). BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
What I’m getting at, is that if you’re going to be making excessive demands of BMW, the same ought to be made of Mercedes and VW-Audi. Or these companies should be shunned. What do you say?
The Menace from the East
Be very afraid. If you think BMW is a tough nut, you will be astounded at the ruthlessness of the Chinese. And let us not forget that various government departments are already very cosy with the Chinese.
The Chinese car industry has already made large strides into the SA market. There are numerous models from many manufacturers, and they all have something in common. They are cheap. Yes, in spite of being imported, they still sell for 20% less than an equivalent established vehicle. Why is that?
Very simple. The Chinese don’t care too much for the prosperity of workers (or the environment). They will also make short work of any union interfering with their operations. If BMW is forced to disappear, be under no illusions that the Chinese will take over Rosslyn, to produce their cheap and cheerful tat.
In doing so, they will lay off 90% of the local workforce, and bring in their own. Not being of the mindset of paying their workers a wage that enables them to live in greater society, the workforce will be housed on the plant, in hostels. In China, many factories, plants (and hostels) are equipped with netting around the buildings, to prevent workers from leaping to their deaths. Because conditions are so horrendous. The same will happen in Rosslyn, and you, and the government will be powerless to stop them.
So, Mr Jim, far be it for me to put a dampener on your militancy, and the esteem with which you are held by your members, as you hold our economy to ransom. But I urge caution. Workers in South Africa are already getting a great deal, in return for some of the poorest productivity numbers on the planet. It’s time we relooked at the relationship between business and labour, and remodel it, in the best interests of the economy; the greatest good.
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