As women working at Heineken protest sex for job practice, we find out whether it's more common than you think

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Women's protest to take place at Heineken and Imperial Managed Logistics
Women's protest to take place at Heineken and Imperial Managed Logistics

Workers at the Heineken Sedibeng Brewery in Kliprivier, Johannesburg are set to march against an alleged sexual abuse against women at their branch on April 23.

In a statement posted by the Casual Workers Advice Office, the Heineken Workers forum says: “Women experience extreme violence because of these unequal power relations. Supervisors expect women to give sex for being scheduled in good shifts, get a better job or even just to keep the job.”

The workers demand a stop to the alleged sexual abuse of women by supervisors and managers that work for either Heineken or labour-broker companies at Heineken.

Over the past week, the workers were involved in a CCMA arbitration hearing for workers who have allegedly unfairly dismissed from their jobs. One of the workers dismissed is Gladys Thaane, who says she was unfairly dismissed after approaching the Heineken head offices to raise this alleged sexual abuse issue at the brewery. She says she was fired for an alleged “illegal gathering”.

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Gladys says no one had previously come forward about the alleged sexual abuse because of fear. She says now they are engaging in this “women’s march” against Heineken and Imperial Managed Logistics, the company that employs workers who produce Heineken products.

Heineken South Africa says these allegations are against its service provider Imperial Managed Logistics and that it has not turned a blind eye to sexual harassment claims.

Millicent Maroga, Heineken’s corporate affairs director, says “Both Heineken and Imperial have (independently of each other) put in place reporting channels (toll-free tip-off lines) where employees are encouraged to anonymously report wrongdoing, including abuse of this nature.

Millicent says there have been no complaints received across the various platforms provided to Imperial employees.

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The workers also say that “Heineken is responsible for the current injustices and human rights abuses in the production process of their beers and ciders”.

Imperial Managed Logistics could not be reached for comment.

These are the latest public allegations on the endemic sexual abuse against women at the place of work.

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A few years ago, the South African TV and film industry made multiple headlines about the alleged ‘sex for jobs’ phenomenon. This included women having their contact numbers taken from crew lists and used to inappropriately contact and harass them.

National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF) in partnership with Sisters Working In Film & Television (SWIFT) conducted a study that found that 64.5% of respondents said they were non-consensually touched, experienced inappropriate, uncomfortable and unsolicited hugging, butt-slapping, brushes or other ‘accidental’ contact.

This, of course, happens as the #MeToo and Times Up movements in the U.S. gather momentum to highlight rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse allegations against certain entertainment industry leaders that have resonated throughout the world.  

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