Bridgestone South Africa (BSAF) has finalised the process to close down its tyre manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. The plant’s last day of operation will be 15 November. This follows a consultation with workers and unions. In August, the company announced its proposal to close the Port Elizabeth facility and initiated a Section 189 notice, along with a 60-day consultative process with its 252 affected workers in compliance with Labour Relations Act.
“The proposal to close the plant was not taken lightly and the impact on employees has been taken into account from the outset,” says Jacques Fourie, BSAF chief executive. “We endeavoured to treat employees with the utmost compassion and fairness to support them through the change, while adhering to all legal requirements and due diligence.” BSAF has in recent years seen its financial performance come under pressure, hard-hit by a variety of economic conditions and industry factors. Chief among these industry changes was the bias industrial and off-the-road tyres manufactured at the Port Elizabeth plant being phased out in the market, as a result of a growing trend in the production and use of radial tyres globally.
“The unfortunate reality is that the plant is simply unable to produce the radial tyre that industry is rapidly moving towards,” says Fourie. “Upgrading the factory to produce radial tyres would have necessitated an investment in a completely new multibillion-rand plant, which is not feasible or justifiable under any circumstances, especially in the current economy.” Despite concerted efforts to keep the plant going, including the sale of the factory to investors, all these were unsuccessful and the plant was unable to continue running, a decision that company directors say they only took after exhausting all alternative options. BSAF is still committed to serving society with superior quality in Southern Africa and its Brits manufacturing facility will continue to fully operate. The company will ensure all the necessary support is provided to workers as the operation comes to an end this month.”