Representatives from the SA Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) and Karan Beef are scheduled to meet this week in a bid to resolve the protracted strike by Karan employees. It will be the first meeting between the two parties in more than three months, said Saccawu regional secretary Dumisane Dakile.
On 28 July this year, 361 Saccawu members went on strike after the union rejected Karan’s offer of a 13% increase in the minimum wage and an 8% across the board increase.
According to a statement released by the company last week, Saccawu, an affiliate of the Congress of SA Trade Unions that represents 21% of Karan employees, demanded a 90,4% minimum wage increase and a 12% increase on all salary levels.
“The recommended increase according to CPIX varies between 4,5% and 5%. In addition, Karan pays 47% more than the sector determination in the agricultural industry,” the statement said. It added that Karan’s employees are “remunerated towards the top end of the 75th percentile of the feedlot and abattoir industry sector”.
As the strike enters its fourth month, Karan, SA’s largest beef supplier, issued the statement in response to allegations by Saccawu that striking workers were harassed by the company and the SA Police Service (SAPS) which led to a worker being shot and killed by police. In a memorandum Saccawu also accused Karan of racism and a lack of gender equity, the statement said.
“The strike action was coupled with threats of violence and intimidation towards employees who continued to attend work. Delivery trucks were stoned and gun shots were fired at three vehicles. Two employees’ cars were set alight, employees’ homes were damaged and security personnel were also attacked.
“To date, employees who chose not to strike have been repeatedly intimidated and as a result have laid 30 charges of strike action-related incidences with the SAPS,” Karan Beef group CEO Arnold Pretorius said.He said the employee was shot dead by police after he attacked them. “He was recently involved in intimidation during the strike action and when questioned by police, attacked an officer with a panga and then fled the scene. When the police returned a second time, he attacked them again, which led to police shooting him in defence,” Pretorius said.
Dakile confirmed that a union member had been shot by police. He told Farmer’s Weekly that police and Karan security guards harassed and assaulted employees during the night at their homes located on the premises of the Heidelberg feedlot in Gauteng. He denied that any cars had been burnt.
According to Karan, over the past three months 108 union members have resigned from Saccawu and have returned to work after accepting the tabled increases, while 241 employees – 18,5% of the total workforce – remain on strike.
The company said that to feed its 85 000 head of cattle it has policies and procedures in place that take immediate effect in the event of a strike. – Gavin Grobbelaar