International metals and minerals company United Steel, a division of United Heavy Industries, has disassociated itself from allegations that jobs are up for sale at its steel mill, and condemned the protest action at the site, in Mandeni, KwaZulu-Natal, on June 1.
The company recently acquired the business of Metso Minerals at the Isithebe industrial estate and is still in the process of evaluating the workforce it requires.
United Steel assures that it will engage with the community and always follow best practice when taking on new employees.
After Metso closed its foundry operations in December last year, United Steel bought its assets. However, while Metso manufactured steel castings, United Steel produces semi-finished ingots and bars of various grades of iron and steel.
United Steel director Kanishka Dhar confirms that the plant in Mandini is in a product testing phase for 12 months to be able to meet international accreditation standards.
“We required only 30 personnel during the start-up phase and advertised on notice boards in the area where Metso usually posted vacancies so that we could hire people from the community, especially those that were previously employed by Metso.
“We ended up taking on about 50 people, most of whom were former Metso workers,” he says.
However, on June 1, protesters gathered outside the gates of the steel mill, resulting in the plant being barricaded with burning tyres and riot police having to be called in.
Dhar explains that a voice recording was circulated in the community, alleging that security at the gate was charging R1 500 to accept curriculum vitaes, which is not true.
“Since taking over the business from Metso, we have not released any communication to the public, apart from the vacancies that were posted on the notice boards.
A meeting between representatives of United Steel and Mandeni mayor Thabani Mdlalose has been scheduled so that the company can share its employment plans and its social development initiatives.