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Clover strike to escalate with multiple unions meeting to discuss new mandate

Clover strike continues indefinitely. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Clover strike continues indefinitely. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Published Jan 5, 2022

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Clover, the dairy manufacturer owned by Israel’s Central Bottling Company through Milco SA, has been hit by a strike that has had no end in sight since 22 December, with workers protesting over wage cuts, retrenchments and corporate restructuring.

The president of the General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (Giwusa), Mametle Sebei, said the union opposes the restructuring that is taking place at Clover in addition to an annual wage dispute.

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“The company wants to impose a wage cut of 20 percent in 2022 and close three factories in the North West province, Free State, and here in Gauteng, in addition to the one they have already closed in the Western Cape,” said Sebei.

Sebei said the union opposed the acquisition of Clover by Milco from the start. He said they made submissions to the Competition Commission, but the government supported the takeover on the basis that it was part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to attract investment into the country.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) said that on 8 January, they would assess the impact of the strike and renew the mandate with the workers.

“The workers currently have meetings with the government to intervene with regards to the strike as it relates to retrenchment. We will be mobilising like-minded organisations,” said the FAWU’s Gauteng provincial secretary, Tebogo Rakoma.

Rakoma said there would be a series of actions that they will be taking from that meeting due to a January 10th case against Clover at the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) regarding unpaid bonuses.

Sebei said the situation warrants the intervention of the government because this is the biggest manufacturer of dairy products in the country.

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In a statement released by Clover on 3 January, the company said it had been subject to a difficult trading cycle for several years, where economic growth has been poor.

“Covid-19 has added to these pressures and the uncertainty faced. For these reasons, a comprehensive strategic review of all aspects of Clover’s business was undertaken, which led to the difficult decision to restructure,” said Clover.

The company said that as a business, it is deeply committed to its stakeholders and invested in the growth of the country and its people and that this decision was not taken lightly.

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“Working with the CCMA, Clover explored all possible avenues to minimise retrenchments and ensured a process that was fair and in accordance with all legal requirements.”

Clover said concurrent to the Section 189 process, the business has been engaging representative bodies regarding the annual wage review since April 2021.

The company said: “Clover respects the right of employees to strike and continues to act in accordance with all respective legislation while remaining committed to resolving the matter in a constructive manner.”

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