ArcelorMittal Newcastle Works became the centre of attention on Monday morning, 13 February 2023, following protest action outside the company.
Shortly before 6 am, the protestors made their way to the entrance of ArcelorMittal situated near the N11, with the group demanding the company employ more local truck drivers.
At the time, a crew of trucks were headed towards ArcelorMittal and according to law enforcement on the scene, the group of protestors proceeded to stop the three trucks. Once the large vehicles halted, the drivers were forced to then park two of the trucks across the road, blocking traffic flow.
The protestors then made their way to the Madadeni entrance of ArcelorMittal.
However, adding to the tensions, Newcastle SAPS spokesperson Lizzy Arumugam explained that the protestors took the three truck drivers with them. The missing men have allegedly not been seen since.
With the situation proving to be tense, law enforcement monitored both entrances of the steel giant until the matter de-escalated. Police have assured that they will keep a close eye on any further developments.
Moreover, Arumugam confirmed that the three trucks have also been impounded and further investigations will now be conducted regarding the truck drivers who were forcefully taken by the protestors.
ArcelorMittal South Africa was contacted for comment. The steel giant told Newcastillian News that there was a small group of protestors illegally blocking the road to the company’s Newcastle plant on Monday morning, 13 February 2023.
“The group, calling themselves the Newcastle Community Forum, was demanding that the company uses this forum to hire people from the community. The group, who temporarily held three truck drivers’ captive, was dispersed quickly with the help of the local SAPS and on condition that the management of the Newcastle plant agreed to a meeting with this group, although they are not a recognised forum within the community structures,” stated AMSA.
Following the occurrence, ArcelorMittal said it condemned in the strongest terms any acts of intimidation and violence and it would take determined steps to ensure the safety of its employees and contractors.
“Its approach has always been one of constructive engagement and collaboration and the plant has had many engagements with local forums to address their queries and concerns. Last year, the Newcastle plant agreed with all the forums that they will form one umbrella forum under the auspices of the Newcastle Municipality LED to solicit business and employment opportunities within the Newcastle area, which was achieved. It seems this particular group of people broke away from the umbrella forum,” said AMSA.
Reflecting on the situation, ArcelorMittal South Africa said it was disappointed that there are certain members of the community who seek to disrupt the business rather than work together to ensure its growth so that employment, procurement opportunities, training and skills development, and community investment are sustained.
“ArcelorMittal South Africa has policies in place to hire and use local labour as far as possible in each of its operations and, while the company cannot dictate the hiring practices of its contractors, they are encouraged to use local labour where practical to fulfill their contractual obligations to the company. ArcelorMittal South Africa maintains a database of local people which contractors can use to source locally based skills. For example, close to 60% of the workforce employed for the recent reline of the blast furnace at the Newcastle plant was from local communities. Also, the company has always encouraged equitable processes when opportunities arise so that the entire community has a fair chance to participate,” explained the steel company, concluding that it operates according to the highest business standards and in accordance with its own Code of Business Conduct and will not condone unethical business practices.
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