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Astral: Doors open to talks

Johannesburg - Claims that Astral Foods is not prepared to negotiate with striking poultry workers in County Fair's farming division are unfounded, the company said on Wednesday.

“Our doors are open, but the union has not contacted us since the strike began on Monday last week,” said Theo Delport, managing director of Astral's poultry division.

Last Monday 635 workers, out of 1000 in the County Fair farming division, embarked on an illegal strike, which became a protected strike at lunchtime last Wednesday.

The workers want R1500 per week, which they believe will close the wage gap between them and similar industries in the area. They claim to earn R499 a week after deductions.

Delport said the strike came at a difficult time for the poultry industry.

“What we are trying to do is retain people's jobs. We don't want to look at staff cuts. Senior management have also had a salary freeze.”

Operations were running as normal, with the help of outside labour.

Delport claimed that Astral would “never compromise” on the welfare of the chickens it raised for slaughter.

On Tuesday, Food and Allied Workers' Union spokesman Mlungiseleli Ndongeni said the company had indicated that it was not prepared to negotiate.

On Monday, workers held a picket outside the company's offices in Muldersvlei in an attempt to persuade local management to enter into wage talks, but security guards fired at them with paintball guns.

Delport confirmed the incident, but dismissed it as a “minimal force” response to stone throwing and intimidatory tactics by the striking workers.

The decision to use paintball guns had been the security company's, and not Astral's, he said. - Sapa

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