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Dec 10 2012 10:00AM
Parmalat rocked by wage strike
PROTEST ACTION: Scenes outside Parmalat’s offices in Bonnievale where workers are striking for better wages and benefits.
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Rafiq Rohan

Relations between management and sectors of staff at dairy product company Parmalat in the Cape have soured.

Since last week, 315 staffers have been on strike demanding better wages and work facilities. The striking workers were employed by a labour broker, Workforce, for Parmalat.

Striking workers say they cannot survive and support families on a weekly income of R450 and say that they have never been paid bonuses.

One of the strikers, who asked not to be identified, told The New Age that there were numerous demands but that the immediate ones they needed addressing were issues around salaries and year-end bonuses

“We cannot support our families on this income. Our current salary is R10.95 an hour and between 2009 and 2012 we have received a R1-an-hour wage increase.”

Since last Tuesday the workers have been protesting outside the Parmalat factory in Bonnievale, a small industrial town next to Swellendam in the Cape.

The protest has seen strikers burn tyres and display placards outside the plant.

In addition to salaries and bonuses, the workers are demanding sick leave, annual leave, a provident fund, transport and protective clothing for the workplace. “We feel that Workforce was called by Parmalat to further enslave the community of Bonnievale.

“We are tired of keeping quiet while Parmalat walks all over us,” according to a statement issued by workers.

Gawie Jacobs, the site manager for Workforce, said he could not speak to The New Age because it was “company policy” that all queries first get legal scrutiny.

Senior manager at Parmalat, Hansie Wolfaardt was unavailable for comment when contacted by The New Age.

The strikers said they intended intensifying the strike in the coming week.

An unnamed striker also said workers were forced to go on strike because they worked long hours and were not adequately compensated.

He said he preferred anonymity because, when the strike ends, he could be victimised.

He said: “We are trapped in a vicious cycle here. Because we earn only R1800 a month, when we hit difficult times the banks refuse to grant us loans. All we are left to do is then go to the loan sharks.

“These loan sharks lend us money at 50c a rand. It means if we borrow R100 we have to pay back R150.”

He said workers were protesting “out of desperation”.

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