Strike shuts Hilton firm

2013-03-16 00:00

A HILTON-BASED contracting firm has been hit by three days of protests after giving notice of retrenchments.

Workers at Mount Verde downed tools this week following reports that some of them were facing the axe.

Mount Verde is the site of contracting company IR Voigts (Pty) Limited, which deals in a variety of enterprises, including timber farming and harvesting, sugar cane, earth moving and construction.

The Mount Verde estate also has an upmarket residential development.

The workers have been on strike since Wednesday, when they were told that at least 28 of them would be laid off in a first round of retrenchments.

They claimed that the lay-offs were in reponse to the new minimum farm wage of R105 a day, which was introduced after violent protests by farm workers in the Western Cape, which began in August last year.

Company director Ralph Voigts confirmed that notices to retrench had been issued and workers would to be laid off, but he said this was because the company had lost business contracts.

Operations ground to a halt yesterday as workers sat outside the main gate, preventing people from going in or out.

“[Voigts] told us that he will be dismissing workers from various sections, and from what we understand there would be about 28 workers who will be dismissed.

That is only in the first round … he said he would be dismissing more,” said one of the employees.

The employee said their hours and duties had been changed.

Voigts said the workers had never informed him why they were going on strike.

“On Wednesday, they simply decided to strike and I have not received any information, either written or verbally, as to why they are striking.”

He said the farm wage increase could have been made to work. “But if we are losing contracts what can we do?”

Sandy la Marque, CEO of agricultural union Kwanalu, said challenges were predicted before the minimum wage increase.

“There are many farmers who are trying to restructure their operations to avoid retrenching and there are workers who are saying the farmer must retrench so they could be paid the amount they want.”

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