Union and Famous Brands lock horns

2010-10-26 14:29

Members of the Metal and Electrical Workers’ Union of SA (Mewusa) were in dispute with franchisor Famous Brands over pay and working conditions, both parties said today.

“The main demands of the workers concern the recognition of their trade union, Mewusa,” union spokesperson Mametlwe Sebei said as members went into the second day of their strike at the company’s Midrand offices.

Sebei said the company – which supplies companies such as Steers, Wimpy and Debonairs with sauces, pizza bases and other ingredients – had derecognised the union because it would not compromise on demands.

These included an end to casualisation and the planned outsourcing of truck drivers, improved wages and a new grading system.

Workers were lobbying for a boycott of the company’s products and planned to picket outside some of their franchises.

“We have already received messages of support and solidarity from several student organisations and academics in several campuses and community movements, which expressed their intentions to form part of the consumer boycott if Famous Brands does not yield to the legitimate and democratic demands of the workers.”

In response, CEO Kevin Hedderwick said the company had been in discussions with Mewusa about a “facilitation agreement”, but this broke down when they disagreed on Mewusa’s demand for plant-level negotiations.

Famous Brands said Mewusa did not represent the majority of the workforce as claimed. Mewusa’s representation at the Midrand main support office workforce accounted for 30% and at national level it was 21%.

Since July, management had been in discussions with the workforce about introducing a five-day rolling week shift pattern because of operational requirements.

The workforce resisted this and on October 22 said they would not be working on October 23, “which effectively amounted to an overtime ban”.

They also said they would go on strike on October 25.

Following an incident of “unruly behaviour” on Saturday, the company applied for a court order, which was granted yesterday.

It restrains workers from interfering with management’s need to operate the business.

“In management’s view, the strike is unprotected as it is based on a defective certificate of non-resolution relating to collective bargaining issues,” according to a statement from Hedderwick.

The workforce was then issued with notices informing them that the principle of no work, no pay would apply.

He said about 50 workers were currently protesting peacefully at the support office in Midrand.

Management were running the business using a combination of contract workers and administrative staff, with no interruptions of services to franchises.

According to Famous Brands’ website, they sell more than 6 million bottles of tomato and mustard sauce a year between Wimpy and Steers.

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