Abattoir workers fired for strike over ‘scab’ labour

2009-12-04 00:00

AN estimated 500 employees working at the Fraze Abattoir in Cato Ridge were dismissed last Friday for apparently engaging in an illegal strike to protest the presence of other workers brought in by labour brokers to the abattoir.

The workers said they had been involved in a wage dispute with the owner of the abattoir at the time. They said they had applied for permission to embark on a legal strike and were supposed to receive it on December 15.

A source at the abattoir said that in anticipation of the strike, the employer recruited a “bus-load” of people through the labour brokers to work there. “These people that were brought in on Friday did not know the work and they just stood there watching us while we worked; we knew that they were there to take over our jobs so we stopped working.”

The source said the workers embarked on a “forced” illegal strike to protect their jobs that were under threat.

“We told the employers that we would not continue working until ‘those employees’ hovering over us had left,” said the source.

The employer, however, responded by issuing an ultimatum that the employees should all return to work within two hours or they would be dismissed. When they failed to do so, they were issued with letters of dismissal.

The source said the management had brought in the “new employees” to learn from them so they could continue working when they embarked on a strike.

The dismissal sparked a chain of events as the dismissed employees continued to protest outside the company and were involved in clashes with the police and two people were eventually arrested.

The provincial chairman of Cosatu, Chris Ndlela, said the incident was further evidence that the government should move quickly in banning labour brokers “because they bring a lot of misery and the exploitation of workers”.

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