DURBAN - WORKERS’ unions have welcomed the settlement in the matter involving milk company Clover and its workers, describing it as a moment of reckoning for workers who should join the working class “uprising”.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) ruled in favour of the workers when it brokered a settlement between the unions and the company.
In the judgment, Commissioner Themba Zwane ruled that Clover could not forsake its obligation to pay the workers despite the ongoing impasse between the parties.
General Industries Workers’ Union of SA (Giwusa) national organiser Charles Phahla said the victory was welcomed and should be a call for an uprising that seeks to protect the rights of the working class.
“We are involved in a very lengthy struggle with the company. It decided to punish workers by not paying their bonuses at the end of November last year. Essentially, Clover was trying to gain back some of the employees, because it is easy to abandon the struggle when hunger creeps in. But, to their dismay, the struggle continued, and workers demanded their fair pay.
“The settlement is welcomed and should be seen as a reminder that these multinational companies are only after one thing, and that is the exploitation of Black people. It should be a call for an uprising that will ensure that the rights of the working class are protected,” said Phahla.
Zwelinzima Vavi, of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), said the ruling was a reminder to companies that they have an obligation to take care of their workers.
“The ruling is music to our ears, as it goes fundamentally against the belief that companies are above employees. This ruling has overwhelmingly said to the company that it has an obligation to the worker even in the absence of agreements.
“How I wish the ruling could be an indication of how the case in the Constitutional Court will result in the court telling the company that a legal obligation should be fulfilled at all times.
“But, the CCMA has reaffirmed our beliefs of having a system where companies think they can abscond their duties as employers,” said Vavi.
The unions released a joint statement, saying they would take the ongoing issues with the company to the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Union Buildings on Thursday.
“The unions and allies have resolved to march to the offices of the Ministry of Trade and Industry on Thursday, January 13, to hand over a memorandum of demands to the minister, Ebrahim Patel. From there, the march will proceed to the Union Buildings.
“The Minister of Trade and Industry has ignored our calls for a meeting to solicit his support for the disinvestment of the Israeli-based Central Bottling Company (CBC), the majority shareholder of Clover, and to demand his intervention to protect the jobs of workers.
“We are not surprised by this non-response from the ministry.
“The masses have become accustomed to having their needs and aspirations ignored by the ANC government,” said the statement.
The unions said their troubles with Clover began when the company merged with CBC, resulting in the mass retrenchment of 2 000 workers countrywide. In the list of demands the unions will deliver to the minister is the disinvestment of CBC and the reinstatement of all retrenched and dismissed workers.