Workers unite against major retrenchments by Dairy Giant Clover
Since November 22nd 2021, thousands of South African workers have engaged in an ongoing strike against the dairy giant, Clover. The action responds to the company´s cutbacks in occupation, salary and work conditions. The strike is carried out by the joint forces of the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU) and General Industrial Workers’ Union of South Africa (GIWUSA). To increase pressure, the unions have called for a general boycott of all Clover’s dairy products.
Two years prior to the strike, major shares of the South African dairy producer were taken over by Milco, a company owned by the Israel based Central Bottling Company (CBC). Contrary to their promise of creating hundreds of new jobs, the new management has cut workers’ salary by up to 20% and dismissed approx. 2000 workers from their occupation.
Additionally, working conditions have faced catastrophic setbacks: E. g. by prolonging the standard working week from five to six days, stretching shifts from nine to twelve hours or by making work on public holidays compulsory.
Yet the Clover strike does not merely aim at the conditions of the South African workers alone. It is also a fight in the name of international solidarity. With the takeover of the South African dairy producer by the Israeli Central Bottling Company, part of Clover´s production has been moved to the West Bank. In violation of international law, these grounds have been illegally occupied by the Israeli government and removed of their former Palestinian residents. Given South Africa´s own history of apartheid and forceful eviction, the workers on strike stand in full solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The South African workers on strike demand the end of the company’s policy of retrenchment and salary cuts as well as the general reinstalling of the dismissed workers. Additionally, they demand the company’s independence form CBC to end the collaboration with Israel´s discriminating and illegal occupation of the West Bank. Despite the unions’ ongoing efforts of negotiation with Clover´s management, an agreement is not yet in sight.
The strike has also affected workers organized by the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agriculture & Allied Worker Union (CSAAWU), Global Aktion´s solidarity partner in South Africa. In March 2022, the management at the Ladismith Cheese Company (Western Cape) attempted to force their workers to substitute the production of Clover products. Under the organization of CSAAWU, these workers have refused the proposal and instead engaged in a solidarity strike. Many of the workers at Ladismith now face disciplinary hearings as they are still refusing to process Clover products upon returning to work.
If you want to learn more about the strike and how you can support the workers, contact the South Africa group of Global Aktion at firstname.lastname@example.org