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By Marizka Coetzer


Striking Ford workers speak out

Longtime Ford workers in Pretoria cite inequality and lack of bonuses as key issues.

Yesterday was the fifth day of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) strike at Ford South Africa’s plant in Watloo, Pretoria.

Last week, Numsa members downed tools after failing to reach an agreement with the employer at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

The union said Ford was a multinational that built about 720 cars a day and could afford some kind of bonus. It is striking because Ford has allegedly not shared its profits with workers through bonuses.

Outside the main entrance of the plant, striking workers parked their cars and picketed on the pavement while waiting for updates from union members engaging with Ford.

Some striking workers sat in their cars all day, while others simply stayed away.

ALSO READ: Ford workers persist in strike despite court order

Inequality in the workplace

A worker who has been employed at Ford for 25 years said the biggest problem was inequality in the workforce.

A group of workers employed by Ford for over a decade agreed to speak anonymously for fear of dismissal.

“We still have families to feed, but they [Ford] are unfair. Many people drive past here and think we have a nice job.

“Yes, we are grateful we are employed, but it’s a very toxic place to work in,” said one.

The worker said some of the employees had received bonuses.

ALSO READ: Court orders Numsa workers to return to work

Supervisor gets bonus over operator

“It’s like the supervisor will get a bonus over the operator on the ground. We are colleagues, we talk among ourselves, so we know what’s going on,” he said.

The worker pointed to a new Ford bakkie driving past and said he would never know what it would feel like to drive or own one.

“Those bakkies are beautiful. We are currently building them, but we will never have one. I drive an old Fiesta,” he said.

The worker said they assembled vehicles in the plants and worked from 8am to 4pm, with only a half-hour lunch.

“We don’t get an hour’s lunch. No teatime, no phone time, just work,” he said.

ALSO READ: Profit share dispute spurs Numsa picket at Ford SA

Another worker said he has a friend who works at BMW.

When the company won a car of the year award, his friend got a custom BMW watch and a R10 000 profit share.

‘Charity begins with your workers’

A third worker said when Ford recently celebrated its 100th year of existence, it made many generous donations to charities, but “forgot about the workers”.

“Charity begins at home or with your workers. We got a hot dog, two cookies and a Coke for the 100th birthday party – and we are the people building the vehicles on the ground,” he said.

The workers said they had also received a branded windcheater as a gift.

ALSO READ: Ford strike may kill the golden goose

Discussions between Numsa and Ford were being held behind closed doors, but could not be confirmed by either party.

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