Highveld: Workers get retrenchment letters

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Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium employees received their retrenchment letters, but there is no word of any retrenchment packages.

The shock of the steel giant’s closure on Wednesday, February 10 is sinking in and people are desperately fighting to keep their houses, cars and to feed their families.
In a prayer meeting early on Saturday, February 27 people voiced their concern about keeping afloat.
As the sun came up, prayers were heard as the group of workers took hands and started praying for their former workplace, for the people making decisions about Highveld Steel and also for their colleagues who are feeling the effect of this.

The oversupply of steel globally and the huge debt owed to Government, Eskom, the Green Scorpions and SARS were the main contributors to Highveld’s downfall.
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) refutes claims that it had in any way scuppered the possible sale of Highveld Steel.

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Mr Theo van Vuuren, Municipal Manager was at the prayer meeting held on Saturday, February 27. Former workers from Highveld gathered to pray for the steel giant that closed on February 10.

While no direct blame has been laid at the door of the department, business-rescue practitioners have indicated that legacy environmental issues were likely to have foiled the deal as the seller had not fulfilled the conditions-of-sale agreement.

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The department placed on record that it has been extremely reasonable over the years in relation to working with Highveld Steel to come into compliance with environmental legislation and permits.

The DEA said that fines have not been issued against the company. Although the criminal investigation has been finalised, the criminal prosecution for offences related to the environment has not yet commenced.

“In actual fact, the closure of this facility is not in the interests of the environment within the current context, the reason being that as an operating facility (one that is making money) it would better be able to address the environmental issues and thereby invest in measures/infrastructure to enable the facility to meet the relevant standards and other environmental requirements,” the department’s press release read.

The DEA is in constant communication with the Business Rescue Practitioners discussing various options to enable the company to continue operating while ensuring that the environmental issues are taken care of. The Department has also been in constant contact with the management of Highveld, the Department of Economic Development and the Industrial Development Corporation, as well as the provincial environmental department and Emalahleni Municipality.
Solidarity Helping Hand’s local branch and Witbank in Nood have been working non-stop to secure food for those affected. Companies and individuals have also come onboard to lend support and help.

Farmers donated 31 000 eggs to the Highveld Steel/Vanchem support project. Another farmer gave a ‘mountain’ of potatoes, another 7 300 litres of milk and another 300 pumpkins and a donation of butternuts were also received.

“This is overwhelming. God is making sure these people are not going hungry. Again this city is standing together, carrying one another,” Ms Annemarie van Heerden chairperson of Solidarity Helping Hand’s local branch said.

ADT Security Service said affected households do not have to cancel their security services if they have been retrenched.

“Contact us to arrange six months free service. Bring your retrenchment letter along and we will make the necessary arrangements,” said Mr Rassie Erasmus ADT Branch Manager.

On March 16 a free breakfast will be given to people affected. It is taking place at The Venue at The Ridge. There are only 800 tickets available for this breakfast. There are still tickets available at Timbercity ask for Roedolf Esterhuysen or Ansa Kok or at Witbank News for Zita Goldswain.

If you want to get involved in the Highveld/Vanchem support project contact
Chris-Mari Hill from Solidarity: 072 180 2175 or email: chrismari.hill@gmail.com or Ms Mara Cronje from Witbank in Nood: 082 840 5796.

*There are two drop off points for food, baby nappies and milk, Anjo’s Property Management Services in Stander Street 16b and Apple Properties on the corner of Margaretha Street and Geringer Street 9B in Del Judor Proper.

*Dog and cat food can be dropped off at Dr Vernon Rezin’s Watermeyer Vet at 5 Totius Street.

  AUTHOR
Zita Goldswain
Assistant Editor

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