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S AFRICA: SABMiller soft drinks unit workers walk out

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The soft drinks unit of SABMiller's South African operations has been hit by a strike.

Up to 1,500 employees at Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI) , the soft drinks division of South Africa Breweries, walked out today (22 December) following a disagreement with the Food and Allied Worker's Union (FAWU) over pay and benefits increases.

The protest follows "prolonged negotiations between the union and ABI", a SABMiller spokesperson told just-drinks earlier today.

"ABI has responded to each of the union's requests and has reverted with an offer of 7.8% increase in compensation and a total 8.3% increase, including added benefits."

In what is one of the busiest trading weeks in the year for ABI, the unit "has a strong contingency plan in place to ensure the least amount of disruption", the spokesperson added.

"The majority of stock has already been moved into the trade and much of the distribution is run through owner-run distribution outlets, which will result in minimal disruption. With regards manufacturing, the company has at least seven days worth of inventory and this is being moved to outside warehouses."

Local reports have claimed that the two sides are scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the impasse.

ABI has a total workforce of 4,000 people of which about 3,000 are union members.

Back in July, SABMiller confirmed plans to sell US$750m-worth of SAB shares, or a 10% stake, in three tranches to black retailers, employees and the wider community in South Africa. Earlier this month, FAWU attacked the proposal as "a disappointing initiative in that the employee share stake portion of the transaction will perpetuate inequalities within SAB and within society".


Sectors: Beer & cider, Soft drinks, Water

Companies: SABMiller

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