‘L’Oreal SA Must Shut Down Until Workers are COVID-19 Free’ Memorandum Statement by GIWUSA & SAFTU

31 May 2020

Today (28May 2020) SAFTU and GIWUSA are demonstrating against L’Oreal SA. This demonstration is part of our campaign to expose L’Oreal SA’s blatant disregard for workers health and safety.

Presently there are 10 workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and yet the management of L’Oreal are forcing workers to come back to work. More disgusting is that the company has employed other workers to do the work of those workers who are in self-isolation. And these workers have not been tested, exposing them also.

One worker tested positive for COVID-19 about two weeks ago. The company did not shutdown immediately and workers continuing to work. Three days later the Department of Health and came to the plant and immediately shutdown the factory and tested all the workers. Instead of allowing the 14 days to expire, the company forced workers to go for a re-test, this time at a private facility, just to make sure that workers come back to work.

Now 10 workers are found to be COVID-19 positive. The cosmetic company’s arrogance has led to the infection of 9 more workers in the past week alone. Whilst some workers are in quarantine, the company has now employed non-L’Oreal workers to do the work of those who are infected. These workers have not been tested. This is outrageous and spits in the face of the national fight for survival against COVID-19.

The coronavirus is a capitalist virus. In the unceasing search for new commodities,new markets and for profits capitalists are destroying forests and causing these kinds of viruses to jump directly from animals to humans and then they are transmitted from humans to humans. The capitalist form of development is also the main reason for its rapid spread amongst people. Once the virus is in humans it gets transmitted from human to human. Because workers have to work to earn a living, they are forced to travel in mass transports and to concentrate in factories where the virus easily spread. The spatial legacy of apartheid forces workers to travel long hours to work resulting in workers spending more time in mass concentration. The neo-liberal neglect of housing by the government has meant that workers are forced to stay in overcrowded houses or in informal settlements, further facilitating the spread of the virus.

By forcing workers to come to work, the bosses of L’Oreal want to force workers and their families to co-exist with the virus. For these bosses the virus is here to stay and it must become part of our normal existence. This we reject. The virus is not a normality. COVID-19 has infected millions of people, caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people. In our country it is estimated that tens of thousands are going to die of this virus. This cannot be normal.This cannot be business as usual.

L’Oreal’s arrogance is even more shocking considering the criminal liability it now carries for its conduct in the past two weeks. We call for the Department of Employment and Labour working together with the police to criminally prosecute L’Oreal management for its homicidal actions. This is not only necessary but urgent in order to arrest the seemingly unabated criminal behaviour of L’Oreal management as it continues to arrogantly justify business as usual. The South African government cannot allow a French multinational company whose profits are spent overseas to disobey the laws of the country at the risk to workers lives and our communities.

SAFTU/GIWUSA is very aware that LOREAL remains an untransformed profit driven entity that has no regard to workers rights and dignity. L’Oreal’s latest antics are indicative of the white supremacist capitalist culture that has is ever willing to expend and sacrifice the lives of black workers’ to amass incalculable profits.

We are calling on the government to regulate that workers of L’Oreal can elect Worker Inspectors to ensure that the company remains Covid-19 free. Our call for legislation to entitle workers to elect their own Worker Inspectors is premised on the reality that the bosses and management of L’Oreal cannot be trusted with the safety of workers and their families. It is also informed by the fact that the Department of Employment and Labour, because of years of neo-liberal underfunding, does not have the capacity to daily monitor and inspect compliance on the part of companies.

It is only workers who have an unmediated, uncompromised interests in safeguarding their lives. Only Workers Control over Health and Safety can safeguard the lives of workers and their families.

We demand the shutdown of L’Oreal until all workers are Covid-19 free. We demand the shutdown of L’Oreal until the company is Covid-19 free. We call on the government to legislate the election of Worker Inspectors.


This memorandum of demands statement was released on 28 May 2020. You may republish it, 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.

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