Trade union Solidarity has vowed to take legal action against ArcelorMittal over reduced working time which was put in place by the company in the early days of the lockdown due to a slump in steel demand.
A short time system was introduced by the company around May and was initially believed to be temporary measure. The union says workers salaries have been reduced as a results of the changes in working times and describes the system as "unfair and unlawful" and constitutes a "unilateral change in conditions of service".
The steel producer is said to have introduced a 5% increase of short time from 1 November 2020, with a further 2% in April 2021, for one category of workers, the rest of the workers remained at 25% short time, with the prospect of a possible permanent 8% reduction in salary.
Willie Venter, Solidarity Deputy General Secretary of Metal and Engineering, Willie Venter, said ArcelorMittal said the union is left with no choice but to pursue legal proceedings against the company.
"It is unfair to take away from one group of employees while benefiting another group, and Solidarity and its members will never accept such double standards," Venter said.
In July, ArcelorMittal, which is Africa's biggest steelmaker, announced that it would temporarily idle furnaces at Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging until demand for steel recovers.
Production at its Vanderbijlpark plant is expected to resume in January 2021, after it cut back output due to a drop in demand following the Covid-19 lockdown.
ArcelorMittal supplies more than 60% of the steel used in South Africa and as operations in Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging, Saldanha and Newcastle. In June it revealed that it will embark on a "large-scale restructuring" as it came under pressure from reduced demand which was worsened by the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown in various markets.
*Compiled by Sibongile Khumalo