Strikes continue at ABI plants

Strikes continue at ABI plants

SABMiller subsidiary, Amalgamated Beverage Industries, has said that it hopes striking soft drinks workers will heed a fresh call from union officials to refrain from violence.

Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI) said today (20 January) that it hopes the call from the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) will prevent violence during the strike from escalating further.

Late last month, up to 1,500 employees at Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI), the soft drinks division of South Africa Breweries (SAB), walked out following a disagreement with the FAWU over pay and benefits increases.

Since then, trouble has flared up, including the petrol bombing of delivery vehicles, assaults on non-striking employees, anonymous calls to employees' families and the stoning of ABI and owner-driver vehicles.

As a result, the Labour Court in Johannesburg last week ordered FAWU and its members to refrain from committing any acts of violence and criminal conduct during the strike.

FAWU followed with a statement today, calling on its members and supporters to refrain from committing any acts of violence and criminal conduct during the strike.

ABI managing director John Ustas said: “We have been appalled at the continued violence which has been evident throughout this strike. We are pleased that FAWU finally appears to be taking this seriously, and really do hope that FAWU's call today to its members will have an impact.
“It is worth noting that this strike is fundamentally undemocratic, and we believe this is one of the reasons why it has been so violent. It was embarked upon without any form of ballot, which is a breach of FAWU’s own constitution.  Many strikers have indicated that they would like to return to work, but are afraid of the ongoing intimidation. It is lamentable that people are losing their pay as a result.”

Less than a third of ABI’s 3,800-strong workforce is currently on strike, but the firm said that a “strong contingency plan” has ensured that operations are continuing uninterrupted.

In an update on the union’s website today, the group said that members continued to strike at ABI’s four plants in Midrand, Pretoria West, Develand and Phoenix (in Durban) on a daily basis.

The union added that it had convened “an urgent meeting”, to be attended by its provincial secretaries and national negotiators tomorrow, to thrash out details of a campaign programme against Coca Cola in the run-up to and during the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.