Crippling strike at Ceres continues

THERE is no end in sight for the crippling strike at Ceres Fruit Growers, one of SA’s biggest apple and pear packaging and storage companies.

The industrial action threatens fruit exports to Europe as the Western Cape’s Ceres region is one the country’s leading producers of fresh fruit for export.

More than 1,200 Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) members at the company have been on strike for almost three weeks, demanding a 12.5% wage increase and a share in profits.

The company is offering a wage increase of 7,5% across the board, as well as a R1,000 once-off profit share for all employees.

“The strike continues as no agreement has been reached,” Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said on Monday.

He said union members would embark on a “protected” march in Ceres on Wednesday to protest against “the exploitation of workers”.

Ceres Fruit Growers MD Francois Malan said last week that he had accepted a memorandum from striking workers, who marched to the company’s offices.

“While the strike is not over, and we remain at a standstill, we do have agreement to meet in the next days to negotiate together with the support of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration,” Mr Malan said.

He added that it remained difficult to calculate the financial impact of the strike, although the company has already lost millions because of damage to its facility following arson attacks.

“Once our fruit reaches its destination, we will have a better idea of the financial impact,” he said.

The strike has led to business activity at some of the surrounding farms grinding to a halt.

In September, protesting workers allegedly blocked trucks from leaving or entering the region and torched a large warehouse.

Mr Masemola distanced the union from allegations of intimidation, destruction of property and obstructing trucks.

“We do not need to intimidate anyone because the turnout for the strike is almost 100% … we have told our members that we will not condone any violence or destruction to property,” Mr Masemola said.

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