Sappi Forest: mechanisation move sparks protest by 2?000 community members over threat to jobs

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MORE than 2 000 community members in Highflats on the South Coast marched against Sappi Forest for installing machines to do some of the work that the marchers claim will lose them their jobs.

Community member Sipho Ngcobo said, “The forest industry started here in 1960 and for generations our families have been working for the timber companies, especially Sappi.

“When you leave school you join the forest. I have worked for Sappi for the past 46 years, but today they replace us with machines.”

In the memorandum of grievances the protestors demand that the contractor, Sibuyile, be given a fair rate so that it can re-employ them, stop machines with immediate effect and appoint an independent forestry expert to determine a fair rate.

They said 1 000 people are without jobs while they are supporting families.

Sappi regional communication manager Zelda Schwalbach said workers from Sibuyile met Sappi management on Monday.

Sappi management explained to them that any loss of jobs is not a result of any decision by Sappi to mechanise its harvesting operations, said Schwalbach, adding that “plantation conditions in the area are such that manual operations are still required”.

She said Sappi finds it regrettable that in the absence of Sibuyile management important issues could not be clarified with the workers in the presence of Sappi’s management.

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said police monitored the marchers.

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