On National Women’s Day, Sunday, 9 August 2020, 300 General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) members at Natures Garden went on an indefinite protected strike. Sunday was chosen as the day of strike in order to prevent the company from requesting workers to work over time on the Sunday and the Monday, which was the public holiday.
The strike covers demands of two disputes with the company. The one set of demands relate to the wage demands of an 18% increase and a minimum wage of R10 000 and improvements in other conditions of employment. Workers are also demanding that all labour broker workers under Phakisa must be permanently employed by Natures Garden. The other set of demands relate to the retrenchment of workers.
The bosses of Natures Garden have stubbornly refused to accede to any of the demands of workers. In fact, they are demanding that workers accept a wage freeze. This arrogant stance of the bosses came despite the company working throughout the lockdown period. Natures Garden is a food processing company producing frozen vegetables and fries. It is this arrogant stance of the bosses that forced workers into strike action to defend their buying power and living standards.
As part of the picketing rules, which are a prerequisite for going on a protected strike, three picketing sites were identified and agreed upon. One of the picketing sites is on the company premises where no more than 50 workers could picket and the other two are outside the company, one being near the gates of the company and the other across the road from the company.
Despite this agreed picketing rules, South African Police Service (SAPS) officers have taken it upon themselves to actively destroy the picket and the strike. They have dispersed the pickets, even the one on the company premises, claiming that the pickets are in contravention of the National Disaster Management Regulations that ban gatherings, except that of churches and funerals.
Emboldened by the actions of the SAPS Officers the bosses of Natures Garden issued a lock-out notice and put as a condition of returning to work the unconditional acceptance of the wage freeze. They also inserted a new demand that workers must accept a three-year wage deal.
In response to the call for a complete boycott of the products of Natures Garden, the bosses of Natures Garden attempted to gag GIWUSA and undermine our freedom of expression. They alleged that GIWUSA is defaming the company and harming its reputation in the eyes of the public. The High Court kicked out their court application.
GIWUSA and workers of Natures Garden are calling on the public not to buy the products of Natures Garden. These bosses want the workers to carry the burden of the pandemic and want to protect their profits at the expense of workers. We cannot allow the bosses to continue to make workers suffer the consequences of their quest to accumulate wealth.
Support the boycott of the products of Natures Garden!
This statement was submitted on 27 August 2020. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.