In 2021 Clover Industries in South Africa decided to impose new rules and regulations around their employment policies which saw the workers of the big company under attack. Clover Industries was, at the time, planning on cutting R300 million in labour costs. This would mean imposing 20% salary cuts, retrenching about 600 workers, including closing 4 branches, and increasing work hours.
These structural changes led to several strikes that were organised by unions, such as the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), to try and fight for the rights of Clover workers. There were calls for consumers to boycott Clover products in solidarity with the workers who were facing the threat of losing their jobs. Sadly, due to the failure of unions reaching an agreement with Clover Industries, many workers saw themselves dismissed that year.
Karibu! had an opportunity to speak to one such retrenched workers from Clover, who wished to remain anonymous, and this is what he had to say about the impact that these decisions, made by the management at Clover, had on his livelihood:
“I was dismissed in November 2021 from Clover Industries after they decided [to implement their] structural changes, and since then my life has changed a lot. The unions tried their best to negotiate with the company without any success, and eventually, we were dismissed because of the structural changes imposed by the company. I have since opened a case against the company that is with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
“It has been 11 months since the case was open and it is still pending, I get monthly SMS’s from the CCMA to update me that that case is still pending, but there has not been a solid way forward yet. I did apply for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) after my dismissal, and it was declined.”
He then applied for the Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD) of R350 per month, but that too was declined, “So at this point I have no source of income.”
“Even though we tried to fight the bosses as much as we can by striking and staying away from work, many of the workers ended up going back to accepting the terms set by the bosses. I am a family man myself, with a wife and kids, and I totally understand their reasons for going back. It has been very hard for me to look after my family since my dismissal, and the bosses put us in that position where we must choose whether we want to fight for our rights or feed our families on the little we get.
“I do believe that unity is key for us as workers at this point, we need to present a united front to win cases against the attacks that bosses launch against us.”
This is just one of many stories that could be told by workers who lose their jobs in the name of companies maximising their profits. We see this phenomenon not only with Clover Industries, but with many other companies across the country. The working-class is the most vulnerable in the current recession, as funding is being cut by the government and corporations are trying to maximise profits. This has led to an unsustainable situation for workers in South Africa.
This article was submitted on 14 July 2023. 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.