Violence surges as strikes halt

Violence surges as strikes halt

SABMiller subsidiary, Amalgamated Beverage Industries, has warned of a rise in violence and intimidation at its key production facilities in South Africa, despite more workers having halted strike action.

The SABMiller subsidiary said last week (21 January) that strike action led by the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), had been dropped at sites including Bethlehem, Klerksdorp, Mafikeng, Rustenburg, Vaal, Welkom and Pretoria East.

However, the levels of violence and intimidation have “escalated”, the firm said.

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.

Last week, ABI managing director John Ustas said: “We have started to see a number of strikers returning to work, and more than 60% of our sites have halted the strike. Many FAWU members have indicated they wish to return to work, but they are afraid to do so due to the high level of intimidation they are experiencing.”

On Wednesday, in KwaZulu-Natal, a delivery truck was stoned and a crew member was assaulted near Premier in KwaZulu-Natal while five ABI Midrand employees were assaulted and intimidated, the firm said.

On the same day there was a bomb threat at an ABI employees house in Thembisa and “severe intimidation” of Midrand employees at their homes, while at the weekend, three Midrand workers were beaten up, one so severely that he is still in hospital, and another had his car burned at his home.

Ustas added: “We have been appalled at the continued violence which has been evident throughout this strike. We again call on the union to intervene and ensure that its members and supporters refrain from violence and intimidation.”

ABI said it remains committed to engaging with FAWU to find a way forward.

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, calling on its members and supporters to refrain from committing any acts of violence and criminal conduct during the strike.