DURBAN - Clover employees have embarked on a national strike following the company’s issuing of a section 189 letter to employees with plans to retrench and cut salaries in efforts to save costs.
The General Industries Workers Union of SA (Giwusa), Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu), African Meat Industry and Allied Union, Solidarity Union, and non-unionised employees have called for a boycott of Clover brands and an employee mass strike in protest of the company reducing salaries by 20%.
Fawu’s national secretary at Clover, General Sokhetye, who was leading the protest at the Queensburgh Clover branch, said the foods and beverages company planned to put one assistant in every truck, making it difficult for one truck assistant to work alone.
“Clover is retrenching and demanding cost cuts by saving up to R300 million, which means our members will be sacrificed after having worked so hard to build and strengthen this company.
“They have given the company CEO at least R100 million to buy shares from the company, but they now want to sacrifice our members,” Sokhetye said.
He stressed that forcing the implementation of short-time versus overtime could have negative implications on the workers.
Raymond Pogiso Dithato, Fawu’s national chairperson at Clover, told the Daily News that there were two difficult parallel processes that the company embarked on: wages and section 189a processes. In terms of labour laws, he said, these remained unfair labour practice, and also the restructuring of the union stronghold on the company.
“We have submitted an offer to the company of a wage increment of 5% with the condition they remove all austerity measures proposed in the section 189 processes.
“They rejected our proposal. Measures proposed do not only put all members' lives and dignity at risk but, further, put them in a situation with no financial security. A salary cut of 20% is too deep,” said Dithato.
In a statement issued on Monday by Fawu and Giwusa, the unions said the first element in the onslaught is the cutting of jobs.
“Here the company wants to retrench 350 workers nationally and close four branches affecting a further 300 workers.
“The retrenchments of these 650 workers are in addition to the workers who have already left the company via Voluntary Severance Packages during July and August and here we are talking about more than 800 workers.
“Another 812 workers stand to lose their jobs once the company embarks on the relocation of its City Deep Branch to Atlas Road in Boksburg in February 2022. This is relocation is temporarily placed on hold until February 2022.
“The second element is the reduction and freezing of wages.
“The company wants to reduce the wages of workers by 20%. According to Clover, our wages are above market rates. To make Clover SA competitive, these wages have to be aligned to these so-called market rates,“ read the statement.
Clover ’s Group Manager of Legal and Secretarial, Steven Velthuysen, said the negotiations on both matters had broken down and unionised employees embarked on a national strike.
“The company respects the right of employees to strike in a peaceful and legal manner. We look forward to a timeous resolution.
“Any further discussions will be considered in the context of the business’s financial position and long-term sustainability which is to the benefit of all stakeholders.
“We have put contingencies in place to limit the impact of the industrial action on our operations. A prolonged strike will, however, result in unavoidable disruptions to supply as the festive season is a traditionally a high demand period.”
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