Clover goes to court in bid to end countrywide strike as it enters ninth week

Clover seeks interdict to stop striking employees from disrupting business operations and inciting the public against the company

19 January 2022 - 21:20
Dairy producer Clover has gone to court for an urgent interdict to end a nine-week-old strike.
Image: 123RF/STOCKSTUDIO44 / file photo Dairy producer Clover has gone to court for an urgent interdict to end a nine-week-old strike.

Dairy producer Clover has approached the labour court for an urgent interdict in a bid to end a countrywide strike at its factories which is in its ninth week.

Clover said it was seeking an interdict to declare the strike unprotected as unions did not follow the correct procedure, and to restrain striking employees from intimidation, harassment and picketing outside the home of group CEO Johann Vorster. 

“We have also asked for an order to the general secretaries of the two respective unions to denounce violence and intimidation of non-striking workers,” the company said.

About 5,000 members of the General Industries Workers Union of SA (Giwusa) and Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) are on strike to force Clover to reverse retrenchments and the docking of salaries. The unions say 2,000 jobs are on the line.

The company said 850 workers have been retrenched so far in a restructuring process. Of these, 750 were retrenched involuntarily after they refused to accept an alternative. “We offered a cash equivalent of six 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.”

There were also 100 involuntary retrenchments due to operational requirements, and some employees accepted voluntary retrenchment or were close to retirement. “We have now completed the restructuring process,” said Clover.

The company, which received approval to merge with Israeli based Milco in 2019, rejected claims that it has reneged on merger conditions. “The closure of some factories had been approved by the Competition Commission in 2019 as this was necessary long before Milco became a shareholder.”

Clover says it is creating Africa’s first dairy industrial park to build sustainability. 

“This will require that some factories be consolidated. This was all explained at length and in detail to the Competition Commission 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,” said Clover.

On Tuesday workers marched in Johannesburg to call for a boycott of Clover products. They said their 13th cheques were not paid in full. The company said the cheques had been paid and the amounts 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,” said Clover.