On 28 November 2021 Clover Pty Ltd was initially granted an interdict against the General Industries Workers Union of SA (Giwusa) and identified individual Union members. Members of the union have been involved in destruction of property, interruption to trade and looting at several retailers around the country. Union members have been on strike since November in a wage and retrenchment dispute with Clover.
On 25 January Clover obtained a further court order that orders the Unions (GIWUSA & FAWU) to publicly denounce all forms of violence and intimidation against any non-striking workers and third parties, including any damage to property (whether communicated by SMS, WhatsApp or any form of social media). The Unions are further required to remove all communication on their social media pages encouraging this type of behaviour.
Steven Velthuysen, spokesperson for Clover, said: “The right to strike is Constitutionally protected but this kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable.
“We embarked on restructuring as a last resort. Our business was materially affected by Covid and we had little if any choice in the decision we made, which was not made lightly. We cannot and will not reverse our decision if we are to run an economically viable business.
Note to editors:
There have been a number of allegations – widely covered by some media – in which the Union has made several false statements. Some of them are addressed here:
Bonus cheques being underpaid
13th cheques were processed and paid last Friday. The order from the CCMA to do so was never necessary, as Clover would always have paid the bonuses once it knew what the amounts of the deductions would be.
The amounts paid to employees differed from person to person. All 13th cheques were processed correctly, and then paid out with the relevant deductions. These would have included deducting days not worked in November during the strike, given it is currently on no-work-no-pay. Certain deductions were also made on behalf of the employee which needed to be recovered from the bonus cheques, as there was no other salary income (given the strike) against which to offset deductions.
The deductions were discussed at the CCMA meeting, and the Unions were well aware that there were going to be deductions, and in many instances – significant deductions, for example garnishee orders. It is unclear why the Unions did not communicate this to the workers.
The claim that Clover and Milco are in breach of merger conditions by retrenching workers
This is simply (and clearly) not true. Clover is required to submit an annual report to the CC regarding the merger conditions, and all of them have been met so far. The closure of some factories had been approved by the CC in 2019 as this was necessary long before Milco became a shareholder. In a major strategic change to build our sustainability as a business, we are creating Africa’s first Dairy Industrial Park. This will require that some factories be consolidated. This was all explained at length and in detail to the CC and unions at the time. It is unclear why this issue – already dealt with in detail many years ago – would be brought to the fore now when there’s a wage dispute.
The claim that 2000 workers have been retrenched/1600 workers have been retrenched
This is not correct.
There have been 850 retrenched so far as a result of the current restructuring process, consisting of the following:
- c 750 involuntary retrenchments – these are employees who failed to accept a reasonable alternative to retrenchment. We offered a cash equivalent of 6 months’ difference in pay in order for employees to adjust to the new salary levels, or to seek alternative employment, which we considered more than fair.
- c 100 Involuntary Retrenchments due to operational requirements
In addition to this, some employees accepted voluntary retrenchment, or were close to retirement.
We have now completed the restructuring process.
All the problems started when Milco became a shareholder
This is nonsense. As outlined above, the decision to consolidate our operations came before the merger, and was disclosed to and approved by the CC in 2019. Milco have done everything possible to help us through the Covid trading period, including a major cash investment into the business, without which many more jobs would have been lost.