Surprise reward for VW’s Willie
After 44 years of service, company treats employee to a great day out of the office
For 44 years, Willie Miya of White Location in Knysna has been the go-to guy for your Volkswagen parts in town, ordering and selling them for the local dealership, but he never knew exactly what the factory he was ordering the parts from looked like, or how the parts were put together and shipped out.
That all changed recently when his employers decided Willie deserved recognition for his decades of loyalty and hard work, and arranged for him to see and experience firsthand the factory he has dealt with only telephonically for almost half-acentury.
A man known by his colleagues for his contagious laugh, Willie has become part of the furniture, so to speak, at Volkswagen Knysna, staying with the company from one owner to the next. “In all my years
I was never at the Uitenhage (Eastern Cape) factory, but oh my Lord, what an experience,” the 65-year-old father of five said recently. Meeting ‘the big man’ himself
About two weeks ago, employers Gideon and Francois Knoetze arranged for Willie to visit the factory, with what was supposed to be a meet and greet with Thomas Schäfer, the chairman and managing director of Volkswagen Group SA, which turned into having lunch with “the big man of the company” as Willie puts it.
“What an experience it was! I thought the MD would be an old man, but he was younger. Meeting him was the cherry on the cake. I saw how the parts and cars were put together – a rugby field is too small to fit inside that factory – and I even saw all the old models I worked with over the years. I’ve seen all the different models that came out while I was working there, but seeing them at the factory and how the robot arms welded them together was an eye-opener,” Willie said, another glorious giggle emanating from his gut. More recognition for his staying power
He even received a certificate from Schäfer, recognising the many years he has worked for the company.
Asked what his favourite part of the day was – the factory tour or meeting the MD – Willie smiled broadly and said “both”. “I will never forget that day. If I ever drive past the factory again with my family I can say I was there.”
Born in Knysna in 1953, Willie started working for Volkswagen in 1974 “when they were still near the correctional services offices, near the municipality”. “I started in the parts department, learning how to order and sell them, and I still do the same. I’ve always wanted to work with cars,” he said.
His favourite part of the job? “Seeing new faces almost every day who turn into friends over the years. The young people say, ‘Make your circle bigger’,” he said, followed by more chuckles. According to Willie there are customers he has known for almost as long as he’s been selling parts. “Plain and simple – this is my passion.”
According to Francois, Willie is a jewel who brings a whole different dimension to the workplace. “He is irreplaceable,” he said. Gideon concurred, adding that Willie is one of the most beautiful people he knows. “He always leaves you with something, he is larger than life. He definitely deserved the recognition.”
Willie Miya (left) and employer Francois Knoetze enjoy a moment at the Volkswagen factory.