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Tiger Brands wage strike enters its fourth week

Boxes of Jungle Oats, one of Tiger Brands’ original products. Picture: Mike Hutchings, Reuters.

Boxes of Jungle Oats, one of Tiger Brands’ original products. Picture: Mike Hutchings, Reuters.

Published Dec 6, 2021

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Tiger Brands’ KwaZulu-Natal Beacon factory wage strike is entering its fourth week. The factory located in Mobeni, Durban, is Tiger Brands’ only producer of sweets in the country.

Workers want their wages to be increased by 7%. Tiger Brands offered the workers 4% but this was not accepted.

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According to the African Meat Industry and Allied Trade Union (Amitu), all 1,400 workers have downed tools. On Friday, December 3, the rice factory that produces Tastic and Aunt Caroline also joined the strike.

Amitu national co-ordinator Lungelo Makhathini said the union has exhausted all avenues in attempting to negotiate with the company.

“We have tried engaging management. We have tried everything, even going through CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) facilitations, and these negotiations should have started in May, but the management kept postponing or telling us that their chief negotiator was not around,” said Makhathini.

Commenting on the number of negotiations being conducted, Makhathini said they have only met Tiger Brands twice. “In these negotiations, the company just basically told our members that they only have 0% wage increase. It is as if Tiger Brands is trying to provoke them and to try to give them an impetus to not go back to work.

“But when they do interviews with news publications, they always say they are trying to talk to the union, that they have contingency plans about the strike, but that does not make any sense; those plans will never work, because that factory is the only one in the country and it is in total shutdown right now.”

Makhathini accused the company of releasing carefully crafted messaging to the media. He said Amitu felt vindicated by the Tastic rice factory also joining the strike.

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Amitu said it had issued a notice in support of the demands made by the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), a majority trade association at the rice factory. The union and Tiger Brands failed to reach an agreement about the wage increase during negotiations in November.

“This 3 or 4% that the company has been offering at these negotiations across their sites has been totally rejected. We will also be meeting with Fawu members to try and consolidate our position.”

Tiger Brands reported a loss of R732 million due to the July civil unrest. The company also had to recall 20 million cans of KOO and Hugo’s vegetable products in July due to contamination. The Jungle Oats and Black Cat peanut butter producer took legal action in November with a court interdict against “acts of violence and intimidation” by the workers who were striking.

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