Heineken has disputed claims that beer production at their Sebokeng brewery had come to a halt after workers embarked on a strike.

Heineken has disputed claims that beer production at their Sebokeng brewery had come to a halt after workers embarked on a strike over ‘slavery conditions'.

The Sedibeng brewery produces Heineken, Amstel Lager and Windhoek Lager.

Hundreds of labour broker workers at the Dutch beer company said they were ‘fed up with abusive labour practices’ and accused the company of hiring labour brokers to impose ‘slavery conditions’.

Meme Makaula of the Casual Workers Advice Office said the demand of the workers was for those who work outside to have adequate shelter and protection, especially those on night shift.

However, the workers were only given a tent, said Makaula. 

She also said that as a result of the strike; “beer production has been stopped today to our knowledge.”

However, Heineken's Sbu Mpungose dispputed that, saying the strike has had minimal disruptions on operations.

Makaula also said the dispute has included a major battle around the right to strike as labour broker, Imperial, had obtained an interdict from the labour court that effectively took away workers constitutional right to strike.

Makaula also said the strike was one episode in a long running dispute around the rights of these labour broker workers to become permanent as prescribed by section 198 of the Labour Relations Act.

Legally that is a separate dispute, “but it is part of the same struggle,” Makaula said.

Mpungose said concerns raised by casual workers were around shelter provided for bottle sorters stationed at the Sedibeng Brewery. She said conditions under which workers live were improved after concerns were raised.  

"A temporary measure was implemented by erecting a provisional shelter and recently a permanent working environment was provided, which complies with health and safety standards. 

"Imperial had a hearing on Wednesday to interdict the strike. The application was heard by a judge of the Labour Court – the ruling was in favour of Imperial," she said.

According to Mpungose, Heineken South Africa contracts services from Imperial for inbound, warehouse and logistics services. 

"This means Imperial is the sole employer of the workers who are striking. There is no recognised union involved in this matter but an organization called Casual Workers Advice Office is representing the Imperial employees."