Confusion reigns around wage strike at Grain Field

2016-04-20 06:00
ONE of the striking workers lifts a placard high with a clear message during the strike about the wage increase at Grain Field Chickens in Reitz.               Photo: Tladi Moloi

ONE of the striking workers lifts a placard high with a clear message during the strike about the wage increase at Grain Field Chickens in Reitz. Photo: Tladi Moloi

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REITZ. – Confusion reigned around the company premises of Grain Field Chickens in Reitz as workers milled around on Friday (15/04), with management issuing ultimatums to those taking part in the illegal and unprotected strike that started on Thursday (14/04).

The ultimatum states that workers are afforded a final opportunity to return to work and resume work on 15 April at no later than 15:00. Employees who fail to comply with the ultimatum, to return to work and resume their normal duties, would be automatically dismissed.

Workers vowed that they would not return to work until their demands have been met, but management has reacted by threatening to apply for an interdict.

At the heart of this jigsaw puzzle is the issue of the annual increase. Workers have been demanding a R1 500 increase per worker, whilst management is offering R700.

Allegations have surfaced that this plant, with a work force of about 1 500, is represented by two unions, namely the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu)) and Ucimeshawu Trade Union.

It is further alleged that the Ucimeshawu Trade Union signed the offer from management, which its members were not aware of, thus rendering the minority helpless.

According to Dan Mofokeng, the branch organiser for the Free State and Northern Cape of Fawu, their members were not on strike, but could not work, as the duties here are performed in a chain system.

“The other union has signed a principal agreement with the management and it is surprising that they can go on strike without following the prescribed protocol,” he said.

He said the requirement was that management should be informed 48 hours before the strike had commenced and should be presented with a certificate allowing the strike to happen.

Express Eastern Free State was informed that a certain Lebogang Mokoena, who is their shop steward, had informed them that a certificate allowing them to strike was supposed to have arrived earlier in the week. When this did not happen, the workers took it upon themselves to strike. They claim the arrival of the certificate was postponed several times, with the latest date being 20 April.

The workers also allege that they were not aware that an agreement had been signed.

Efforts to contact Lebogang Mokoena by telephone proved futile. Efforts to obtain a comment from the Ucime­shawu Trade Union offices in Durban were also futile, as the paper was redirected to their Johannesburg offices, where the call went unanswered. Grain Field Chickens were also contacted, but Express Eastern Free State was sent from office to office, with no one willing to comment.

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