We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the 5000 Clover workers organised by the General Industries Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), who have been on strike since 22 November 2021.
The vast majority of workers at South Africa’s dairy giant, Clover, earn below a living wage despite the soaring profits Clover has boasted over the years. Milco SA, a consortium led by Israel’s Central Bottling Company (Coca-Cola Israel), purchased a majority stake in highly profitable Clover in 2019. Despite the workers’ objection to this, based on solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli imperialism, the South African state authorities approved the merger on the basis of “creating jobs” as part of the so-called Masakhane project. Not only have Clover dismantled the project through retrenchments (lay-offs) of workers and managers that are part of it – meaning all 500 new jobs promised are gone – but by bringing their restructuring project, Sencillo, forward over 2 000 jobs have been lost. Clover wants to retrench 300 workers, additionally four branches are proposed to be shut down, adding another 350 jobs lost, not including workers who took the Voluntary Severance Packages (which amount to forced retrenchments). GIWUSA reported that the company wants to relocate the City Deep Branch to Boksburg, risking another 812 job losses.
Media propaganda says Clover is unable to continue its operations due to the “ongoing pandemic” and lack of service delivery in various locations. However, Clover made a sterling $673 million (R10.8 Billion) of revenue by the end of 2020 compared to the $462.3 million (R7.4 Billion) end of 2019. Yet with this job bloodbath, the South African government, who narrowly won the last elections on a mandate of creating jobs, is refusing to hold Clover accountable.
Milco SA’s real intentions with Clover are to dismantle the local productive capacity Clover has, while securing the market share and brand loyalty Clover enjoys in South Africa for dairy products and beverages to eventually be imported. This would mean mass job losses and soaring dairy prices for working class communities in South Africa.
The ANC government welcomed the take-over of Clover by Milco SA and turned a blind eye to the violation of international law by CBC with its operation in the occupied territories of Palestine. We are not surprised by this as the ANC government has been the active agent for both national and international capital. With its neo-liberal policies the ANC government placed the interests of capital at the centre of the development of the country. Instead of development and advancement of the lives of the masses, we have seen and experienced the entrenchment of the positions and wealth of the old-apartheid ruling class. Black cheap labour is still the foundation of South African capitalism and the ANC government is the facilitator of the supply of black cheap labour.
Not only are the workers of Clover affected by this brutal pursuit of profits. Many small towns like Lichtenburg in the Northwest, Heilbron and Frankfort in the Free State are going to be impacted with the closure of Clover Branches. Clover, as part of its restructuring strategy, is closing its in-land facilities and moving them to the coastal areas. The local economies of these small towns are going to be devastated because Clover operations form an integral part in relation to economic activity and jobs. Many farmers and farm workers are already feeling the brunt of these closures. With the closing of its facilities Clover has also terminated its milk supply contracts with the local farmers and the latter in turn are abandoning farms and cutting jobs. The security of milk supplies is coming under severe constraints and already the prices of milk are rising. These local towns are not only losing manufacturing capacity but also farming capacity and this is threatening food security.
Workers’ demands are clear:
1. The unconditional re-instatement of all retrenched workers
2. The complete scrapping of all austerity measures including the 20% salary cuts
3. The disinvestment of Milco SA/CBC
4. Nationalisation of Clover SA and its complete transformation into a co-operative run by workers and communities.
We urge organisations and individuals to donate to the union’s strike fund (details below) and join in solidarity actions across the world. We are also calling upon people in Southern Africa and the rest of the world too boycott all Clover products.
Clover workers are fighting against imperialist strategies of securing the “market share” to dump products in the neo-colonial world in the name of securing profits on the backs of super-exploited workers and communities. This is a struggle for the international working class, which holds the most power when standing united against the bosses’ drive for increased profits.
The attacks on workers and our communities can only be overcome through uncompromising unity of the international working class. We call for principled unity in labour and progressive movements behind the striking Clover workers.
When workers use their collective organisation to fight and win, it lights a beacon to workers everywhere seeking to improve their conditions, showing that as an organised working class we have a world to win.
An injury to one is an injury to all!
Details for Clover Workers’ strike fund:
or Bank Deposit:
Account name: GIWUSA
Account No: 1180111508
Account type: Cheque account
Branch Code: 10210900
Reference: Strike Support
SWIFT CODE for intl donations: NEDSZAJJ
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[INTERNATIONALISM] Solidarity with Striking Clover Workers in South Africa [eng, ita]