Numsa workers accuse Fortune Steel of ‘severely exploiting’ workers

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(File)
(File)

A worker impaled by a steel rod when it fell from a great height was one of the protesters marching to Fortune Steel on Friday over the company’s poor treatment of workers.

Given Mokoena, a casual worker at Fortune Steel in Nigel, recounted the moment when the metal rod was dislodged from a pile and fell, piercing his upper back and ripping through his right tricep.

“It all happened so fast. One moment I was walking past a pile of steel rods, then the next thing I remember waking up in Parkland hospital in Springs. The injury happened just three days into me having started work at the company. I was hospitalised for three weeks.

“The company covered all my medical bills. But since I have been recovering at home for the past four months, I have been receiving a monthly salary of R750. Being the bread winner at home this has left us in a dire financial predicament,” he said.

Mokoena recounted these events minutes before taking part in the march over the poor treatment of workers by Fortune Steel, a scrap smelting firm owned by the Fortune Group in India.

“Employees are being severely exploited and labour laws are blatantly disregarded and ignored by the company. The vast majority of injured workers who lay complaints or claims against the company are dismissed without being able to claim from the compensation fund,” said Numsa’s national acting spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.

“We have met with the company on numerous occasions but they refuse to cooperate, they have continued to negotiate in bad faith and always met us with a hostile reception when we raise worker grievances,” explained Hlubi-Majola.

The grievances include that workers are not given personal protective clothing, and there has been a rise in injuries since the Fortune Group took over the company.

“Numsa condemns the management of Fortune Steel ... Workers complain that those who have been injured on duty have been dismissed on the spot and Numsa has recorded at least 19 cases of workers who have been injured on duty without compensation,” said Siyabonga Mbuqe, Numsa’s local coordinator in Nigel.

The Indian ambassador and the director-general of labour were invited to receive the memorandum.

“The real issue is the total disregard of labour laws by the company and the failure of the these two bodies to intervene,” said Hlubi-Majola.

Mbuqe confirmed that a member of the department of labour as well as a company representitive was at Fortune Steels in Pretoriusstad to receive the memorandum on behalf of the department.

No one was in attendance from the Indian embassy to accept the memorandum.

“We did not expect anyone from the embassy to attend as they did not express any interest in hearing the workers’ grievances,” said Mbuqe.

City Press tried to contact the department and the company numerous times to no avail.

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