Almost all 130 employees who were retrenched from a canned fruit factory in Ashton near Montagu have resumed work as seasonal workers at the plant.
The employees at Langeberg & Ashton Foods (LAF) – a division of Tiger Consumer Brands – had experienced three retrenchment processes in six years. The company underwent a restructuring in 2021.
An employee who was retrenched in 2022 said many of the retrenched staff were back working on month-to-month contracts.
He said when they were let go they had the option of applying to work as seasonal labourers.
The worker, whose name is being withheld to avoid victimisation, said while everything was “up and running” again at the factory, many employees lived in constant uncertainty.
“I wasn’t satisfied with the way the negotiations took place the last time.
“Now everything feels very uncertain. But I am grateful I can provide for my family.”
The lowest paid worker at the factory receives R1 600 a week for packing cans and assembling boxes, while a controller receives around R3 000 a week. Tiger Brands yesterday said its deciduous fruit division employed 231 permanent employees, and up to 4 300 seasonal workers.
According to its website, LAF canned fruit and fruit purée concentrate production is exported to over 40 countries on six continents.
In 2021 it announced it was undergoing a business optimisation review process.
Tiger Brands said: “For the year ended September 30, 2023, Tiger Brands’ deciduous fruit business delivered an improved performance, benefiting from elevated global fruit and puree prices and the relative weakness of the South African rand along with improvements in cost management.
“The deciduous fruit division employs 231 permanent employees. Seasonal employment fluctuates throughout the year and peaks at around 4 300 individuals during the apricot processing season for a period of approximately three weeks.”
Malvern de Bruyn, the provincial secretary of Cosatu, stated that the manufacturing industry was providing ready-to-eat food to meet demand.
Cosatu was involved in the process concerning LAF.
De Bruyn said: “We know the industry is struggling currently and there are many factors that play a role.
“One of these is the retainment of employees, bad management and poor planning.
“We also observed that farms and companies don’t have proper sales products in place. There is no proper marketing that is effective.”