Striking workers filled the Catholic Archdiocese Cathedral Hall in Johannesburg on Saturday, 08 January 2022 and again later in the month on 22 January 2022. The workers, who are members of the General Workers Union of South Africa (Giwusa) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), met to reflect on the industrial action they have taken against Clover in the form of a strike. In both mass meetings, there were a number of issues raised, and workers explained the reason for the strike.
Organisations present at the mass meetings included the South African Trade Union Federation; the Workers Socialist Party; One Voice for All; the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party, Casual Workers Advice Office, Khanya College, Keep Left, the Palestine Solidarity Alliance and other progressive movements.
This meetings at the Cathedral discussed the intensity of the two-month long strike, of Clover’s restructuring, job cuts, wage/salary cuts and unfair working conditions that caused division amongst the workers. Workers also made their demands very clear; including the unconditional re-instatement of all retrenched workers, the nationalisation of Clover SA under workers’ control and its complete transformation into a co-operative; the complete scrapping of all austerity measures including the 20% salary cuts; the re-instatement of the dismissed Empangeni workers; and the disinvestment of CBC.
General Secretary of GIWUSA, John Apollis said that the strike against Clover needed to continue as the dairy company is “threatening the livelihoods of workers and their families.” He reported that Clover intended to cut workers wages by up to 20%. The main labour issue between the striking workers and Clover – since they were taken over by an Israeli consortium known as Milco – is that the owners of the company want to cut labour costs by around R300 million, to make more profits for themselves.
GIWUSA president, Mametlwe Sebei called on the South African government “… to protect the South African dairy industry and value chain against the dumping of cheap Israeli products in the country.” They further advised that in occupied Palestine, the CBC operates on illegal Israeli settlements where Palestinian homes have been reduced to ruins.
According to a GIWUSA pamphlet distributed at the meeting, Milco-owned Clover is presently “reducing local production and shifting operations towards the coastal plants.” Clover is also planning to close four dairy farms which will increase the crisis of unemployment in South Africa.
The strikers received messages of support from different organisations, locally and abroad in the United Kingdom, the United States and Palestine.
The struggle is not only receiving solidarity and support from Palestine but also from cities all across the world. A Global Clover Day of Action was held on 27 January 2022 with workers and supporters of the strike picketing at the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, Clayville, and City Deep in Johannesburg, in Limpopo and the Western Cape, as well as London (UK), New York (USA), Toronto (Canada), Sao Paolo (Brazil) and Vienna (Austria) to name a few.
There have also been a series of meetings set up that took place in the last few weeks between striking workers’ representatives, Clover management representatives and government (the Department of Trade and Industries) to discuss and negotatiate towards a settlement of the strike. But the management of Clover have refused to stop the process of restructuring currently taking place, which has and will continue to lead to massive job losses, wage cuts, and factory closures.
For this reason, the striking workers are resolute in continuing the struggle against Clover and have planned a series of protest actions, both regionally and nationally around the country, including pickets, pamphleteering, and occupations at key points and locations to put pressure on Clover.
This article is an amalgum of various submissions by FAJs around Gauteng. The various articles were submitted in mid-January 2022. 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.