The Triple A Beef abattoir in Cramond KwaZulu-Natal, which processes up to 400 head of cattle every working day, recently came to a complete standstill for roughly two weeks after 200 of its staff were fired for holding an illegal strike. Triple A Beef’s managing director, Shaun Caine, said his company had eventually been forced to declare that an illegal strike was taking place on the abattoir’s premises after there had been numerous unauthorised work stoppages in the plant over the previous month.
“These stoppages were not wage-related and had also not been represented by the staff’s union,” explained Caine. ”Most of the reasons given by the staff for downing tools were petty and after a month of ongoing stoppages A issued final warnings to employees to get back to work. They ignored them so we declared an illegal strike, locked the staff out of the premises, and fired 200 of them. All the company’s actions are supported by labour law.”
He said the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu), which was supposed to represent the abattoir staff, had been kept informed of the workers’ grievances, but had still not advised the staff of the legal processes to follow in seeking to have the grievances addressed. Caine continued, “The union should have advised the staff correctly. To the company’s management it seemed as if the work stoppages had just been a staff ploy to annoy us for some reason.” The Witness newspaper reported that Ceppwawu spokesperson Mfanalo Dladla had said that the union was going to take the matter to court on behalf of the fired Triple A Beef abattoir employees.
However, Farmer’s Weekly could not reach Dladla to ask him why the union allegedly did not formally intervene in dealing with the staffs’ grievances before the illegal strike had to be declared. Caine said most of the company’s clients were understanding of the situation and able to continue sourcing meat from other abattoirs for the duration of Triple A Beef’s closure. “We have given most of the staff the opportunity to re-apply for their jobs,” he added. “It appeared most of them didn’t actually want to down tools anyway and there were also 60 abattoir employees who were not fired because they didn’t participate in the strike because they were sick or on leave,” Caine explained. “It was only our abattoir that was affected and not our feedlot. The company is losing money, but it is not a crippling loss.” – Lloyd Phillip