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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Tiger Brands and union at impasse over wage increases

Boxes of Jungle Oats, one of Tiger Brands’s original products, on a shelf. Picture: Mike Hutchings

Boxes of Jungle Oats, one of Tiger Brands’s original products, on a shelf. Picture: Mike Hutchings

Published Dec 17, 2021

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Tiger Brands, the South African packaged goods company, is in an ongoing five-week long wage strike at their Mobeni factory in Durban. Workers demanded a seven to eight percent salary increase in November, but the KOO and Beacon producers offered four percent. All 1400 workers have downed tools.

Tiger Brands reported losses of up to R2.5 million a day as a result of the strike. In a meeting facilitated by the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration), the African Meat Industry and Allied Trade Union (AMITU) met the company’s negotiators on Wednesday.

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AMITU national co-ordinator Lungelo Makhathini said the negotiations were disappointing and that the two parties had reached an impasse. According to the union leader, there was a deal that AMITU and Tiger Brands almost agreed on, but the negotiators abruptly stopped the session.

“We were close to reaching a deal, but management started playing games once more because we came close to what they wanted, but they did not agree,” said Makhathini. He accused the negotiators of deviating from their original proposals.

AMITU wrote a letter to Tiger Brands' chief executive, Noel Doyle, calling for the removal of the company’s chief negotiators due to their "obstructive" behaviour, and claiming the pair’s parley skills left much to be desired.

“When [they] realised that we were willing to back down or concede certain things, management started making more demands. We made a concession by three percent and said let’s start talking on that basis,” said Makhathini.

According to AMITU, the union arranged the last meeting.

“We reached a deal in principle. Billy Sekwane (a negotiator) told us that he had a flight, and he would get back to us at his convenience. Which person walks away when parties are about to sign? What that stance created was a situation where our members were allowed room to backtrack from the concessions that they had made,” said the union.

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Makhathini said this left them at a loss for words.

“We hereby request that you remove Billy Sekwane and Riyaad Mahomed from our negotiation table… We will no longer recognise them as negotiators. Our position is that we will never sign a deal with these men at the table. We are close to signing; our members are eager to come back to work,” said AMITU.

The union said it has campaigned hard and urged their members towards a settlement, but the Tiger Brands team is still a stumbling block. It warned the Jungle Oats producer to act now or lose hundreds of millions of rands.

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BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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