File photo: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – In a David vs Goliath-like battle the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union (CSAAWU) has claimed victory over fruit processing plant Two-a-Day, one of the country’s largest plants, following a labour-related dispute.

The union charged that Two-a-Day plant management in Grabouw had refused their pleas to organise freely, recruit more workers and represent them in wage negotiations.

Matters came to a head last month when the workers threatened to go on strike unless the company recognised the union, resulting in the CSAAWU declaring a dispute which gave the company a 48-hour deadline to respond.

The company agreed to meet with CSAAWU’s representatives and then to an “expedited arbitration process” at the Commission on Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

CSAAWU national organiser Karel Swart said the CCMA awarded the organisation stop order deduction access to the company, full shop stewards rights, right to recruitment, and freedom of association on the company premises.

“The CCMA victory has opened the floodgates in Grabouw and will spread across the apple and fruit sector that covers Grabouw, Villiersdorp and the Elgin Valley. This is in the best interests of farmworkers, farm dwellers and the rural poor, many nonunionised and at the mercy of exploitative practices and horrendous working conditions.

“It was a major victory that would not have been possible without the support of our federation and the solidarity from local and international supporters.”

The Two-a-Day Group comprises more than 50 farms owned by the principal shareholders. Its total area under fruit exceeds 3 300ha, with total production, including processing, equating to over 200 000 tons a year.

It exports 5.2 million cartons of apples and pears a year, and supplies the local market with 2.9 million cartons of apples and pears a year.

The company’s human resources director, Dimitri Jacobs, said CSAAWU applied for organisational rights early last year, but at that stage only represented 12% of employees at the company.

“CSAAWU struggled for two months to reach the 30% and eventually referred the matter to the CCMA,” said Jacobs.