Trade union Solidarity today launched a comprehensive campaign to counter US steel tariffs. Solidarity also announced that 7 500 jobs in South Africa could be affected by it. Local manufacturers affected by the new tariffs include ArcelorMittal, South 32, Hulamin, Duferco, Cisco and Columbus Stainless.
One of the steps Solidarity will take is to take the voice of steelworkers and the public to the US by filing a petition on the White House website. The petition has already been registered on the White House website. This petition platform is an instrument the US uses to identify key issues of common interest and to get those on the agenda.
Solidarity wants to mobilise all South African workers to support their fellow countrymen working in the steel industry by signing the petition. The petition is addressed to President Trump and requests him to reconsider the tariffs on steel imports from South Africa. This petition can be signed until 27 June 2018.
According to Solidarity Deputy General Secretary Marius Croucamp, 100 000 signatures are needed for the White House to pay attention to a petition. It is thus in the entire country’s interest to support the campaign to keep this important cog in the South African economy going. “Although South African steel exports to the US only constitute around 2% of total US steel imports, those tariffs will have a significant impact on the South African steel industry with 7 500 steel workers who stand to lose their jobs as a result of the imposition of the tariffs,” Croucamp said.
Go to www.solidarity.co.za to find out how to sign the petition or SMS the word SOS to 34802
Solidarity’s campaign encompasses a comprehensive four-pronged strategy to deal with the impact on South African employees of the global steel crisis brought about by the US trade tariff changes.
The four strategic elements of Solidarity’s campaign are as follows:
• Ongoing interaction with the Department of Trade and Industry;
• Consultation with employers and employees in the steel and engineering industry that could possibly be affected; and
• Consultation with US delegates and representatives in South Africa.
• Petitioning the White House; and
• Liaison between Solidarity and international labour organisations and trade unions that have members in the steel sector too. This consultation is already under way.
The Highveld Steel, mine crisis led to the loss of 1 800 permanent jobs. Solidarity had to intervene, and provided Highveld Steel workers every two weeks with packages containing basic and sanitary products through Solidarity Helping Hand. “There is a possibility that the job losses will be four times more this time around. We must make sure that we are prepared and ready to support the affected communities. To deliver the same basic packages every two weeks to 7 500 people will cost approximately R3,75 million per month, excluding accommodation and municipal expenses.”
Croucamp emphasizes that long-term plans should be developed that can help the industry to recover if our international efforts should fail. “Highveld Steel is a major success story that can serve as an example of how one can rebuild after such a crisis. We should start with discussions about a long-term strategy early on. We must create hope!”
The USA announced on 8 March 2018 that import tariffs will be introduced on steel and aluminium. These tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium will have very adverse consequences for the South African steel and aluminium industry.