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Barloworld retrenchments to continue as Numsa loses court battle

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Retrenchments at Barloworld Equipment are continuing following the Labour Court’s dismissal of the National Union of Metalworkers’ urgent application to halt the process and reinstate its members.

Numsa had approached the Labour Court earlier this month, saying that Barloworld’s retrenchments of its 950 members of staff at its Caterpillar business resulted from a flawed retrenchment consultation process and the workers should be reinstated.

The company is the official Caterpillar dealer for 11 countries in Southern Africa and provides the brand’s construction, mining and industrial machine range to countries like Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Russia and the recently acquired Mongolia-based Caterpillar dealer, Wagner Asia Equipment. It began the retrenchment process due to its equipment business declining following the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns in the territories it operates in.

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Numsa said the retrenchments that started two months ago did not consider alternatives for its members, such as voluntary severance packages and various criteria relating to the workers who were affected, including their names, skills and ages. The labour union also said Barloworld had refused to provide its order books for the year, to show where it stood financially, and that it had not prepared the affected employees for interviews for other positions.

The court dismissed Numsa’s application shortly after it was filed, saying that Barloworld had no legal obligation to agree to the alternatives proposed by the union. It also said Numsa’s complaint about the interview process related to its fairness in terms of its application and implementation rather than fairness and objectivity.

“Numsa has noted the judgment … we don’t entirely agree with the findings of the judge and what we also noticed is that the application on the basis of urgency was dismissed,” said Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola on Tuesday.

She said the union believed its case still had merit and the next step is to approach the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to lodge a dispute on the basis that the retrenchments were unfair.

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“We also still have the option to go back to the Labour Court, but this time not on an urgent basis,” Hlubi-Majola said.

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