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Urgent call for solidarity!

WASP will not be Intimidated by Spineless Capitalist Tactics

Last week we released a statement in solidarity with striking workers employed at frozen vegetables and chips manufacturer Nature’s Garden in Alberton. Since 12 August, more than 300 members of the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) have been engaged in a protected strike with the company’s management over a living wage and an end to outsourcing.

Two days later, we received a letter from the company’s lawyers demanding that we immediately take down our statement, which we refused.

Nature’s Garden is now seeking an urgent interdict against the Workers and Socialist Party, as the first respondent, along with GIWUSA and SAFTU, as second and third respondents. They claim that our statement of solidarity is defamatory. In other words, the company says we are damaging their brand by publicly supporting the striking workers. The bosses would rather hide behind expensive lawyers and lawsuits than come to the negotiation table with their employees. It is clear that they prefer the classic capitalist tactic of intimidating the working class to silence us rather than face the reality of their super-exploitation of workers.

There is no doubt that we will fight this.

It is not only to defend our own words as WASP, or to continue garnering support for the GIWUSA workers fighting for better conditions; it is to defend the voice of the worker in the class struggle itself. If this interdict is granted, it would be a level of censorship of the labour movement unprecedented in post-Apartheid South Africa. It would be censorship of the values that underscored the mighty struggle against Apartheid by the labour movement. Even worse, it could mean that any comments on the legacy of Apartheid and the structure of capitalism would be open to suppression. Language used by workers, trade unions and community activists in protest would fall under ‘defamation’ and be brutally silenced.

WASP statements claimed as defamatory by Nature’s Garden

The court hearing is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday 25 August (more details will be communicated). We are calling on the solidarity of the movement as a whole to support WASP, GIWUSA, and SAFTU. We also appeal for financial support for our defense fund.

This is a serious political opportunity to raise our banner high as workers, not only defending the rights of the working class that were won through struggle in the past, but also to draw people to the fight we still face moving forward. It is clear the bosses are using every tool in their arsenal to repress the brewing revolt from the working class. When the increasingly pro-employer Labour Relations Act changes are exhausted, they move to these tactics to silence and intimidate. We have to be organised to fight back. 

We will not bow down to the bosses’ dirty tactics and repressive efforts! If they have resources to waste on aggressive SLAPP suits like this, they have money to pay the workers a living wage and insource those who are labour brokered!

So once again, and we shout it from the rooftops:

We stand with workers striking for the conditions that they deserve.

We stand with the working class as it continues to shake the chains of capitalism.

We will not stop fighting until we see the birth of a socialist world, free from exploitation.

And we will not be intimidated. 

#BoycottNaturesGarden

#SolidarityForever

Please contact us at legal@socialist.org.za for further information about the case as well as enquiries regarding financial support for our defense fund.

Documents regarding the case can be found here.

BOYCOTT Nature’s Garden

WASP Supports Boycott of company’s Products in Solidarity with Striking Workers

On Wednesday, 12 August more than 300 members of the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) employed at frozen vegetables manufacturer Nature’s Garden in Alberton embarked on strike action to demand a living wage.

Despite the fact that the company has been reaping the rewards of increased food prices and demand during the lockdown period, it has made the conscious decision to ignore the issues and demands of the workers on whose shoulders their profits are made. This wealth is going to waste, to a few individuals who hoard it in banks for future investment, instead of improving the lives of its producers. In addition, Nature’s Garden has embarked on a ruthless campaign of retrenchments, throwing workers into the ever-growing pool of the unemployed and hungry with no lifeline. While workers have been striking peacefully, the company bosses employed their own private armed militia as well as calling on the police to intimidate and harass the picketers. 

Workers demand the following:

  • 18% wage increase
  • R10 000 minimum wage for all employees
  • Immediate insourcing of all labour broker workers 
  • 15% increase in day shift allowance
  • 25% increase in night shift allowance
  • 4 weeks severance pay for each year of service for retrenched workers (including those outsourced to Phakisa)
  • Retrenched workers be given first priority upon new vacancies opening up

WASP is calling for all trade unions and trade union federations to support and amplify the call for a boycott of Nature’s Garden products. Furthermore we call for lunchtime pickets at workplaces, and for members of the public to take pictures of themselves in solidarity with banners in solidarity with the campaign and post them on Facebook and Twitter under the hashtag #BoycottNaturesGarden .

A solidarity action like this, in addition to the militant strike action, will hit the heartless bosses where it hurts – their pockets – and force them to the negotiation table. We also call on supporters to leave 1 star reviews on Google Reviews as well a comments on their Facebook page exposing Nature’s Garden for their callous treatment of workers and encouraging all to #BoycottNaturesGarden. The reality faced by these workers is not unique to them. We can expect many more workers to face the same or worse conditions due to the coronavirus crisis on top of an economic recession. Now is the time to stand in solidarity and ensure the working class fights back against the ruling class’s opportunistic  attacks. Nature’s Garden workers must prepare to occupy the factory if bosses refuse to come to the negotiation table. Under democratic workers control, workplaces will be transformed to give workers dignity. The food products manufactured could be utilized to feed the starving and the poor, instead of fueling the profits of the elite. The bosses will do everything they can to refuse the demands. The fight must continue

Aluta continua!

The following is the original statement from GIWUSA:

Over 300 GIWUSA members have embarked on a protected strike action at Natures Garden. The food company which was in operation throughout the lockdown period now wants to shift the whole burden of the pandemic on to the shoulders of the workers. This is indicative of a disdainful and arrogant attitude towards workers, that is harbored by Natures Garden’s heartless bosses. Despite the company’s soaring profits as result of the sharp rise in food prices as well as the increase in demand arising from the pandemic, the management continues to stubbornly persist with unreasonable refusal to address the workers issues and demands. GIWUSA is therefore calling for members of the public to boycott all Natures’ Garden’s products, this is a plea for solidarity and is the only language that can understood by Natures’ Garden’s management.

Despite the deepening inflation which has ravaged workers’ wages, widespread starvation and entrenchment of poverty Natures’ Garden’s bosses continue to insist of a zero % wage increase for years to come. GIWUSA will not allow this to happen. In response GIWUSA has served two strike notices to the company. The first strike notice concerns with GIWUSA’s demands for wage increases. We demand 18% wage increases across the board, with a minimum wage of R10 000 for all employees and we demand all labour broker workers under Phakisa to be made permanent with immediate effect and to enjoy the same conditions of work and as permanent employees. We demand 15% increase in the day shift allowance as well as 25% increase for night shift allowance. We further demand a service allowance R100 for each year worked and for it to be adjusted 8% annually.

The second strike notice relates to Natures’ Garden’s rampant and vicious retrenchment of workers. This is becoming a trend as this year alone the greedy company has already carried out sinister retrenchments affecting a quarter of its employees at its Alrode plant. Instead of manufacturing food for the starving population, Natures’ Garden is converting workers into paupers. Even when it continues to wreck havoc and devastation on workers livelihoods, Natures Garden continues to give workers crumbs as retrenchment packages as they ruthlessly discard workers who have spent a great part of their lives toiling and sweating for the company.

We will not allow this atrocity to take place. We are demanding 4 weeks’ severance pay for each and every completed year of service and part thereof. We demand all the deemed employees, currently under Phakisa to form part of those affected by the retrenchment so that they may also be given severance pay. We demand that the period of employment prior to being ‘deemed’, be factored in when counting the years of service as well as any period in respect of fixed term contract. We further demand all the retrenched workers to be given first preference in the event of vacancies arising in the next 4 years after retrenchments.

As workers embark peacefully on a protected strike and picket, management has employed the services of a heavily armed militia that is busy intimidating and harassing the picketers. We therefore send a third notice to Natures’ Garden’s bosses, that their Marikana fetish will not materialize. This flagrant violation of binding picketing rules by the company will not be tolerated and invite the consequence of the law. The strike and picketing continues at Natures’ Garden plant located at number 24 Beryllium Street, in Alrode/ Alberton.