SA’s oldest packaging company, EH Walton, is fighting to reopen its doors this week after a liquidation application by its creditors forced it to close this month, leaving 450 workers without jobs.
The privately owned company, established in 1845 in Port Elizabeth, had invested R22m over the past three years in modern equipment to boost its competitiveness in packaging for the confectionery, pharmaceutical, liquor and automotive sectors.
Earlier this month its creditors filed a liquidation application at the high court in Port Elizabeth, which resulted in its bank account being frozen.
Employee Leon Walter said: “We were called in (on April 5) and told by senior management that we no longer have our jobs, as the company is being liquidated. They said the company’s bank account has been frozen and that we won’t get paid.”
EH Walton’s marketing director, Ludwe Sityoshwana, said the firm hoped to start partial operations this week. He would not supply details of an agreement being hammered out between the firm’s attorneys and its creditors.
” There are people’s jobs at stake here and I don’t want to create unrealistic expectations,” Mr Sityoshwana said on Friday.
A meeting between management and attorneys discussed “trying to restart the functioning of the business”, he added.
“We haven’t gotten to numbers yet. This is a legal process. The focus is on restarting the business and giving some element of trade from early next week.”
Papers opposing the liquidation would be lodged by the company’s attorneys at the high court today, he added.
In December, EH Walton dismissed allegations of financial difficulties after staff had been told they would be paid their wages for the month in instalments.
The Federation of Unions of SA’s general secretary, Dennis George, lamented the job losses on Friday.
“This must never happen to any worker. Just imagine working for a company for more than 20 years, only to be told that you need to gather your things and leave before 11am.… Even worse, all of this happens before your eyes without any prior warning or proper notice,” he said.
Article source: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=169639