Ceres workers vow to intensify strike

Published Oct 6, 2015


Cape Town - As the strike by Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) members at Ceres Fruit Growers (CFG) entered its fifth week on Monday, the protesting workers are due to decide on Tuesday how the strike will be intensified.

The strike involves 1 200 workers at CFG and other companies in the area. They demand a wage increase of 12.5 percent, or 10 percent if the companies share their profits with workers.

CFG is one of South Africa’s largest apple and pear packing and storage facilities.

Fawu deputy secretary Moledi Phakedi said recent negotiations proved fruitless as workers rejected an 8 percent wage offer.

“There are hardships that the workers are experiencing thus the demand for more money,” said Phakedi.

He said CFG employees were seasonal workers who worked for a maximum of four months a year and spent eight months without employment, while they had families to feed.

“We will decide how we take the strike forward so that the employer may see the employee needs the wage increase,” he said.

Worker Nozabele Mokoena, 33, said she would strike until her wage demands were met.

She said earned R400 a week and it was barely enough to feed her three children and rent a room at Ceres.

“The money all goes to food and rent and there is no money for schooling, it is frustrating,” said Mokoena.

“I have not had an income for a month and my children are starving. Until the demands are met I will protest in front of the gates.”

Another worker, Ashlyn Bernadine, 39, said the conditions at CFG included hard work and long hours.

“The bosses know we deserve the increase and they are taking advantage that the workers are illiterate and the area where we work is remote. We have been exploited for years but now enough is enough,” said Bernadine.

Nicholas Dicey, chairperson of HORTGRO, an umbrella body in the horticultural sector, said: ”The fruit industry is prepared and willing to engage and contribute towards such multi-stakeholder solutions in a constructive manner.”

He said there was concern about intimidation and even threats of arson, and that protest organisers should be held accountable for a disruption of services.

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Cape Times

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