A group of ten former senior KWV employees have instituted legal proceedings against the group, claiming unfair retrenchment practices when the company restructured earlier this year.

After numerous attempts to engage management of the former co-operative in conciliation proceedings, they say they were forced to resort to instructing their legal counsel to take the matter forward through the Labour Court.

The group declined to expand on the strategy they intended following, but were extremely confident of their chances under current legislation. Most expressed sadness at having to take this course of action - against a company which they once served loyally.

KWV's restructuring was part of a strategy, started in 1994, to decrease the workforce, which at its peak stood at over 1,200 people. A total of 154 posts were affected in the restructuring process that was finalised in July, bringing the staff complement down to about 750.

Human resources group director Elna Mouton, said she accepted that the group followed the correct route if they were unhappy with the outcome of the retrenchments.

"I understand retrenchment is a very traumatic affair. We believe we followed the correct procedures and the unions and other staff we negotiated with were all happy."

The group had not officially served KWV with papers. In the past people with 30 and 40 years service had been laid off and on this occasion it was necessary to lay-off more senior people with long service, she said.

When asked about a pledge by MD, Dr Willem Barnard that this round of retrenchments would consider all strata of the group, yet none of the executive management had been affected, she responded, saying that since 1994 the executive team had already been trimmed down from nine to seven.

None, however, were retrenched in July.

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