Deadlock continues in Ceres wage strike

CERES Fruit Growers, one of the biggest apple and pear packaging and storage companies in SA, has conceded that wage negotiations have degenerated into chaos, resulting in malicious damage to property.

This was a direct consequence of nonstakeholders and “instigators” becoming involved in the weeks-long wage standoff between the company and unions that had brought Ceres to a near standstill, the company said on Thursday.

In addition, although the company had managed to meet orders and to export items in cold storage, this “will no longer be possible in due course as stocks are running low”, it said.

More than 1,200 Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) members have been on strike for almost a month.

The union initially asked for a 12.5% wage increase and a share in profits, but has revised its demands to a 9% rise. The company has tabled an improved offer of 8% plus benefits.

“(We) confirm we received two memoranda — one on September 1 and the other on September 22, from Fawu, said Ceres Fruit Growers MD Francois Malan. “A full response to both was sent to Fawu.”

The company offered 8% plus benefits, with Mr Malan saying that the total year-on-year wage cost increase would be more than 10%. The union asked for 9%, a one-off bonus when employees return to work, and funeral cover.

Union members and those not affiliated to the union had indicated their willingness to accept management’s latest offer and return to work, Mr Malan said. “Unfortunately, they tell us they are being intimidated and threatened by Fawu shop stewards and striking members.”

Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola dismissed the allegations and said the strike was well supported. The union would request another meeting with the employer, he said.

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