Fawu talks tough over SABMiller’s BEE scheme

Cape Town - The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) has vowed to take their fight as far as the Constitutional Court over SAB’s Zenzele black economic empowerment (BEE) scheme.

This after the Competition Commission recommended Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s R1.657tr takeover of SABMiller with conditions that include the sale of a stake in Distell.

AB InBev must sell SABMiller’s 26% stake in Distell within three years of closing the deal, said the commission. Other conditions include protecting jobs and setting up a R1bn ($64m) fund to support local farmers.

Fawu, the biggest union at SABMiller, has been opposing this deal over the handling of the Zenzele scheme, which has paid out a cumulative R233m in dividends to the SAB Zenzele Employee Trust over the five years.     

The 10-year duration of the transaction means that it will reach maturity in 2020, at which time SAB Zenzele shares will be exchanged for tradable SABMiller shares. Under the new deal, although AB InBev committed to the continuation of the Zenzele scheme until 2020, Fawu dismissed AB InBev’s offer to pay out early dividends. AB InBev has also undertaken to present an outline of a new black economic empowerment plan that will replace Zenzele when it matures in 2020.

“We, meanwhile, do note and are comfortable with the agreement reached between government and the merging parties, such as on job security and supplier support fund, as well as the other conditions recommended by the Commission, such as the sale of SAB stake in Distell Wines and Spirits,” Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said in a statement.  

“However, as Fawu, we will be fully exercising our rights in terms of the Competition Act as comprehensively amended in 1998, in order to argue our case before the Competition Tribunal as we believe the condition on Zenele has not addressed those concerns.”

Masemola noted that it may appeal the Ruling of the Competition Tribunal to the Competition Appeal Court should it arrive at a conclusion that the ruling did not meaningfully take their argument into account. He added that the union is even willing to “take the matter to the Constitutional Court as we are of a view that there could be constitutionally valid arguments to argue”.

Fawu said they will be consulting with the leadership of their members in a national gathering on Wednesday, who in turn will be consulting with all members, blue collar workers and the rest of the beneficiaries in the next week for further guidance on the way forward.

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