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Clover probes truck burning as strike grows

Clover has been hit by a strike since November with workers protesting over wage cuts, retrenchments and corporate restructuring. File Photo

Clover has been hit by a strike since November with workers protesting over wage cuts, retrenchments and corporate restructuring. File Photo

Published Jan 6, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - Clover says investigations are underway after one of its trucks was burnt on Wednesday in Durban Central amid an ongoing strike at the company.

This as the striking employees received a boost of support with the Media Review Network (MRN) saying they stand in solidarity with the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the General Industries Workers Unions of South Africa (Giwusa) “to gain justice for employees adversely affected” by the takeover of Clover by Israeli company, Milco.

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Clover has been hit by a strike since November with workers protesting over wage cuts, retrenchments and corporate restructuring.

Ethekwini Fire Department divisional commander Nkulumo Dube said they responded to a complaint of a truck burning in Monty Naicker (Pine) Street at around 8am on Wednesday.

“It is alleged that the driver was offloading products from the back of the truck when the people passing by informed him that the front of the truck was burning,” he said.

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Clover said no one was injured.

“The incident is currently under investigation and while it is suspected to be strike-related, Clover cannot confirm this until the investigation is concluded. Clover respects the right of employees to strike in a peaceful and legal manner but strongly condemns any violence, intimidation and damage to property that has been linked to the ongoing industrial action.

“The company has a Labour Court interdict ruling against such unlawful conduct and has enhanced security measures to protect employees and its assets. All unlawful acts will be investigated, and legal action will be taken against the perpetrators.”

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In an open letter, MRN representative Ahmed Haroon Jazbhay said: “Ever since the initial stages of the takeover bid, the transaction has been marred by allegations of human rights violations since Milco has been complicit in the crimes of apartheid Israel against indigenous Palestinians. We at the MRN fully support workers' demands and call on the Competition Commission to respond positively to the requests by Fawwu and Giwusa to immediately cancel Milco's takeover of Clover for it clearly hasn't been in the interest of the South African economy, nor the workers.

Jazbhay called on the Commission to declare the takeover illegal since the two companies “are in breach of their agreement not to retrench workers and introduce unfavourable conditions of employment”.

Spokesperson for the Worker and Socialist Party (Wasp) and member of Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Mahfouz Raffee said the effective retrenchment of close to 2000 workers is in direct conflict with the Competition Act, which is meant to protect the public interest, food security, and to secure employment in South Africa.

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In a statement, the company said Clover Proprietary Limited has been subject to a difficult trading cycle for several years. It added that Covid-19 had added to these pressures and the uncertainty faced.

“A comprehensive strategic review of all aspects of Clover’s business was undertaken, which led to the difficult decision to restructure. Unfortunately, as part of this restructure and as a matter of last resort, a Section 189 consultation process was implemented.

“Working with the South African Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), Clover explored all possible avenues to minimise retrenchments and ensured a process that was fair and in accordance with all legal requirements.

“Concurrent to the Section 189 process, Clover has been engaging representative bodies regarding the annual wage review since April 2021. On November 9 2021, Clover made a final offer of a backdated 4.5% increase in wages, effective 1 July 2021, but this was rejected. Negotiations subsequently broke down and unionised employees embarked on a national strike on November 22,” the company said.

The Competition Commission did not respond to questions by deadline.

Attempts to reach Milco were unsuccessful.

Cape Times

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