Trade union Solidarity on Monday announced an action plan in response to the decision by the US not to grant the South African steel and aluminium industry exemption from import tariffs on steel and aluminium.
Solidarity metal and engineering industry deputy general secretary Marius Croucamp says the 25% import tariff on steel and the 10% tariff on aluminium came into effect on March 23, adding that the impact of the tariffs on the South African steel and aluminium industry is a real cause for concern.
“The tariffs will result in many job losses in the local industry. The industry has been under pressure for a number of years owing to international and local market conditions, as well as the dumping of steel,” he added.
Local manufacturers affected by the new tariffs include ArcelorMittal South Africa, South32, Hulamin, Duferco, Cisco and Columbus Stainless.
Croucamp says the South African government failed to convince the US authorities that the local industry should be exempted from the import tariffs.
“This means that the products of local companies exporting steel and aluminium to the US have become much more expensive in the US and, therefore, companies in the US will be forced to search for cheaper alternative suppliers.
Another consequence of the import tariffs is that stock levels on the global market have risen even further, despite an already existing oversupply,” he explains.
Although China seemed to be the target of these import tariffs, South Africa also came into the firing line.
Solidarity plans to continue engaging with the South African government and industry players in support of the South African steel and aluminium industry to help ensure the sustainability of the industry, thereby offering protection to workers and protecting jobs.
Solidarity’s Save Our Steel campaign, which was launched in 2017, will serve as a vehicle for the ongoing engagement.
Solidarity will also lend its support to and collaborate with the Department of Trade and Industry in further efforts to convince authorities in the US to exempt the South African steel and aluminium industry from the tariffs.
The union also intends to submit a petition to the Trump administration requesting it to revisit its decision.
Additionally, Solidarity will support local companies, as well as US steel and aluminium companies, that are involved in exports to the US when submitting exemption applications to US authorities.
Solidarity is also drafting a contingency plan to deal with the possibility of job losses in South Africa as a result of the imposition of the steel and aluminium tariffs. Such a plan will detail how support can be given to affected members and employees.
Croucamp concludes that Solidarity will liaise with key organisations in the US steel and aluminium industry that were involved in the Section 232 investigations to advance the cause of exempting the South African steel and aluminium industry from import tariffs.