Striking poultry workers at County Fair in Stellenbosch want their wages to be on a par with the rest of the industry, their union said on Tuesday.

Food and Allied Workers Union spokesman Mlungiseleli Ndongeni said the workers went on strike last Wednesday after the employer said it was freezing wages.

The workers demanded R1500 a week to close the wage gap between County Fair, a subsidiary of Astral Foods, and other farms in the area.

“But the employer is not moving, they offered zero percent,” Ndongeni said.

He 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 wage talks.

Security guards allegedly fired on the strikers with paintball guns.

“We did not lay a charge, but we informally spoke to the police about that.”

The Cape Argus reported on Tuesday that about 100 people had gathered on the R304 outside the company's offices, marching slowly, singing and waving sticks, sjamboks and posters.

Workers, who apparently earned R499 per week after deductions, claimed casual staff were being bussed in to assist at the factory.

Astral Foods could not immediately be reached for comment, but poultry director Theo Delport told the newspaper the company had to count costs to keep their heads above water.

“The chicken industry is in crisis at the moment (and is) not performing very well. It's all about affordability, but it doesn't help our cause if the strikers are damaging property,” he said.

He denied that paintballs were fired by security guards. - Sapa