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Clover & The Class War In South Africa With GIWUSA President Mametlwe Sebei

by Labor Video Project
Five thousand workers at the Clover Dairy company in South Africa are fighting an Israeli billionaire family the Wertheim's who have taken over the company and have cut wages and threatened thousands of layoffs. South African unions are calling for an international day of solidarity at all Israeli consulates and embassies, South African embassies and consulates and all franchises of Coca-Cola
5,000 South African workers are on strike against the Israeli owned Clover Dairy company and are facing a massive union busting attack including mass layoffs and wage cuts according to the General Industrial Workers Union Of South Africa GIWUSA president Mametlwe Sebei. He discusses the role of the company as the largest dairy company in South Africa and the take-over by the billionaire Israeli Wertheim family. The family owns Milco, the Isreal Central Bottling Company CBC which has the franchise in Israel for Coca-Cola and the Mizrahi bank which is the third largest bank in Israel.

According to Sebei, despite protests from SAFTU, COSATU, GIWUSA and the Food and Allied Workers Union along with the South African Palestinian solidarity movement the ANC Ramaphosa government approved the sale to this Israeli company. The company funds racist rightwing parties and the Israeli Defense Forces IDF reported Sebei and also has funded settlements in occupied Palestinian lands as well as providing Coca-Cola to these illegal settlements.

The company is shutting down Clover production plants throughout the country and is planning to import Israeli product to South Africa destroying the rural communities dependent on the plants and making South Africa reliant on Israel for dairy products.
The unions are calling for nationalization of the company and for workers control to not only protect jobs but the critical food production in South Africa from being destroyed by the Wertheim family.

Sebei and the unions are also calling for an International day of solidarity on January 25, 2022 at all Israeli embassies, consulates, South African embassies and Coca-Cola franchises around the world to show solidarity with their struggle.

This interview was done on 1/17/22

For additional media:

South African Clover Workers Strike & Israeli Billionaires

The Union Busting War Against South African Clover Workers By Israeli Billionaire Family

Clover cancels Christmas to punish striking workers

SA Occupy Israeli Owned Clover to Defeat Factory Closures, Job Losses and Wage Cuts

Members of GIWUSA and FAWU strike for decent annual wage increase.

Day 2 – Members of GIWUSA and FAWU strike for decent annual wage increase

Striking South Africa GIWUSA and FAWU Clover members call for the nationalization of Clover

Striking GIWUSA and FAWU members are calling for among other things, the nationalization
of Clover
South Africa’s largest dairy company forced to shutdown plant after workers test positive for COVID-19

Clover SA workers march to the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria: Charles Phahla

Israel Zim Line Hit With Pickets In 2010-ILWU 10 & 34 Workers Stand Against Israeli Apartheid

For additional information:
Solidarity with Striking Clover Workers in South Africa!

Production of Labor Video Project

Solidarity with Striking Clover Workers in South Africa!
We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the 5000 Clover workers organised by the General Industries Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), who have been on strike since 22 November 2021.

The vast majority of workers at South Africa's dairy giant, Clover, earn below a living wage despite the soaring profits Clover has boasted over the years. Milco SA, a consortium led by Israel’s Central Bottling Company (Coca-Cola Israel), purchased a majority stake in highly profitable Clover in 2019. Despite the workers’ objection to this, based on solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli imperialism, the South African state authorities approved the merger on the basis of “creating jobs” as part of the so-called Masakhane project. Not only have Clover dismantled the project through retrenchments (lay-offs) of workers and managers that are part of it – meaning all 500 new jobs promised are gone – but by bringing their restructuring project, Sencillo, forward over 2 000 jobs have been lost. Clover wants to retrench 300 workers, additionally four branches are proposed to be shut down, adding another 350 jobs lost, not including workers who took the Voluntary Severance Packages (which amount to forced retrenchments). GIWUSA reported that the company wants to relocate the City Deep Branch to Boksburg, risking another 812 job losses.

Media propaganda says Clover is unable to continue its operations due to the “ongoing pandemic” and lack of service delivery in various locations. However, Clover made a sterling $673 million (R10.8 Billion) of revenue by the end of 2020 compared to the $462.3 million (R7.4 Billion) end of 2019. Yet with this job bloodbath, the South African government, who narrowly won the last elections on a mandate of creating jobs, is refusing to hold Clover accountable.

Milco SA's real intentions with Clover are to dismantle the local productive capacity Clover has, while securing the market share and brand loyalty Clover enjoys in South Africa for dairy products and beverages to eventually be imported. This would mean mass job losses and soaring dairy prices for working class communities in South Africa.

The ANC government welcomed the take-over of Clover by Milco SA and turned a blind eye to the violation of international law by CBC with its operation in the occupied territories of Palestine. We are not surprised by this as the ANC government has been the active agent for both national and international capital. With its neo-liberal policies the ANC government placed the interests of capital at the centre of the development of the country. Instead of development and advancement of the lives of the masses, we have seen and experienced the entrenchment of the positions and wealth of the old-apartheid ruling class. Black cheap labour is still the foundation of South African capitalism and the ANC government is the facilitator of the supply of black cheap labour.

Not only are the workers of Clover affected by this brutal pursuit of profits. Many small towns like Lichtenburg in the Northwest, Heilbron and Frankfort in the Free State are going to be impacted with the closure of Clover Branches. Clover, as part of its restructuring strategy, is closing its in-land facilities and moving them to the coastal areas. The local economies of these small towns are going to be devastated because Clover operations form an integral part in relation to economic activity and jobs. Many farmers and farm workers are already feeling the brunt of these closures. With the closing of its facilities Clover has also terminated its milk supply contracts with the local farmers and the latter in turn are abandoning farms and cutting jobs. The security of milk supplies is coming under severe constraints and already the prices of milk are rising. These local towns are not only losing manufacturing capacity but also farming capacity and this is threatening food security.

Workers' demands are clear:

1. The unconditional re-instatement of all retrenched workers
2. The complete scrapping of all austerity measures including the 20% salary cuts
3. The disinvestment of Milco SA/CBC
4. Nationalisation of Clover SA and its complete transformation into a co-operative run by workers and communities.

We urge organisations and individuals to donate to the union’s strike fund (details below) and join in solidarity actions across the world. We are also calling upon people in Southern Africa and the rest of the world too boycott all Clover products.

Clover workers are fighting against imperialist strategies of securing the "market share" to dump products in the neo-colonnial world in the name of securing profits on the backs of super-exploited workers and communities. This is a struggle for the international working class, which holds the most power when standing united against the bosses' drive for increased profits.

The attacks on workers and our communities can only be overcome through uncompromising unity of the international working class. We call for principled unity in labour and progressive movements behind the striking Clover workers.

When workers use their collective organisation to fight and win, it lights a beacon to workers everywhere seeking to improve their conditions, showing that as an organised working class we have a world to win.

An injury to one is an injury to all!


Bank details for Clover Workers' strike fund:

Account name: GIWUSA
Bank: Nedbank
Account No: 1180111508
Account type: Cheque account
Branch Code: 10210900
Reference: Strike Support

Clover workers call for nationalisation
Striking workers fear that corporate changes at the dairy giant will lead to reduced local production and increased imports of Israeli products.
Pressure is mounting on the government to nationalise dairy giant Clover, to prevent it from potentially becoming a distribution agency for Israeli dairy products.
About 4 000 workers who belong to the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (Giwusa) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) have been on strike against the majority Israeli-owned company since 22 November.
Giwusa and Fawu are holding mass rallies on Saturday 8 January at Cathedral Hall in Johannesburg and Community House in Cape Town with their support organisations – the Workers & Socialist Party (Wasp), Media Review Network, Palestine Solidarity Alliance, One Voice Of All Hawkers Association and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions coalition – to demand that Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel nationalise Clover immediately.
Clover was established in 1898 but Milco, a subsidiary of the Israeli Central Bottling Company (CBC), bought 60% of Clover in 2019 with the approval of the South African government and the Competition Commission.
At the time, Clover chief executive Johann Vorster said the takeover showed that international investment could result in job creation, “huge investment” and “export opportunities”, as well as facilitate South Africans being able to work overseas.
Those jobs never materialised. “The government supported this merger and Milco promised to create 500 jobs, but since they took over about 2 000 workers have lost their jobs and six factories face closure,” said Giwusa president Mametlwe Sebei.
‘The only solution’
Patel has not responded to the unions’ call to nationalise Clover. Sebei said this illustrates the “complete impotence and bankruptcy” of the ANC government.
“We are watching a 120-year-old company, the biggest manufacturer of dairy products in South Africa, being destroyed before our very own eyes. Where factories are being closed, the only solution is for the government to expropriate those factories in order to defend jobs and the local economy,” he added.
Seven weeks into the strike, Clover still refuses to back down on its bid to slash costs by R300 million, with spokesperson Louise Fortuin saying that the company has not changed its position since the strike began.
The unions fear that by closing the inland factories and keeping plants in the port areas open, Milco SA intends to turn Clover into a mere distribution company for Israeli dairy products.
Giwusa general secretary John Appolis recently told United States-based Labor Video Project that Milco was “using the South African market just to extract rapid, short-term profits and to import their own products into our country”.
Fear of dairy dumping
Wasp said “chicken dumping”, whereby an oversupply of overseas chickens were sold in South Africa at below market prices, has shown that cheap imports leads to the collapse of local businesses.
“It is no surprise that the neoliberal, business-friendly ANC will stand by and watch the biggest cheese factory in Africa shut down. Thousands of jobs have already been lost in poultry and grain farming. R6.1 billion leaves the country every year due to poultry imports, according to the South African Poultry Association. This is exactly the future that awaits if we allow the dairy industry to follow a similar path of dismantling our local production capacity and becoming reliant on imports,” said Wasp.
The CBC is owned privately by Israeli citizens David and Drorit Wertheim. It operates one of Coca-Cola’s largest bottling facilities globally. One CBC factory is based in the huge Atarot settlement in Jerusalem, which was built on Palestinian farmland that Israel seized illegally in 1970. Only 20 Palestinian families retained their land and homes in Atarot and are now surrounded by Israeli factories, which “operate up to 24 hours a day, consistently emitting various forms of toxic pollutants into the air”, according to Palestinian public interest law centre Al-Haq.
The Palestinians who live in the area are forced to pay rates to the Israeli Jerusalem municipality, but their homes are “covered with dust and surrounded by garbage disposed of from the surrounding factories”, Al-Haq found. They are forced to use dirt roads and dispose of their own household waste, and are denied connection to the sewerage system, which is for Israeli factories only. Israel frequently seizes their land and fruit trees, and Palestinian children have to walk past Israeli soldiers in the morning on their way to school.
The unions have also asked the Competition Commission to cancel Milco SA’s takeover of Clover, saying the merger was authorised on condition that it did not lead to retrenchments or the downgrading of working conditions.

Hundreds of Clover workers picket outside Department of Trade
Workers have been on strike since November 2021

13 January 2022 | By Masego Mafata
News | Pretoria

Collin Matjena, who has been working at Clover for the last 13 years, said it has been difficult to make ends meet during the strike. Photo: Masego Mafata

Hundreds of striking Clover workers picketed on Thursday outside the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition in Pretoria.
The workers called on the department to intervene to stop retrenchments and factory closures.
Clover management said a difficult trading cycle and poor economic growth had forced them to restructure the company and retrench some workers.
“We strike because our employers leave us with no other option,” says Collin Matjena.
Matjena, who has been working at Clover since 2008, was one of hundreds of Clover workers affiliated to the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU) and the General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) who picketed outside the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition in Pretoria on Thursday. The workers were calling on the department to intervene at Clover to stop retrenchments and factory closures.
“When we strike, we know it’s ‘no work, no pay’. We are surviving on savings from previous earnings and we hope our demands will be met so the strike can end,” Matjena said.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance and the Workers and Socialist Party joined the picket in solidarity with the workers.
“Since the beginning of the strike in November last year, we have written several letters to the Minister [of Trade, Industry and Competition]. Up to now, he has not officially agreed to a meeting so we have decided to come here and show our dissatisfaction,” said John Appolis, GIWUSA general secretary.
Addressing the crowd, GIWUSA president Mametlwe Sebei said Clover would have cut more than 2,000 jobs by February 2022.
“Government cannot sit idly when the manufacturing industry is being dismantled,” he said.
Clover merchandisers, who pack and stock Clover products in shops, said their jobs are on the line and they fear the number of job cuts will increase beyond 2,000.
“We got dismissal letters for failing to sign and accept salary cuts last year and for participating in the strike,” said one merchandiser who asked not to be named.
The group of merchandisers has lodged a case of unfair dismissal with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) which will be heard on Tuesday, 18 January. Earlier this week, workers managed to secure an agreement with Clover at the CCMA that overdue bonuses would be paid by Friday, 14 January.
“I am a single mother of two children, I cannot afford to lose this job. I’m not striking because I don’t value the job, I’m striking because I want to be paid properly for the work that I do,” said one merchandiser.
In Cape Town, about 30 people picketed outside Parliament calling for a boycott of Clover products.
In a memorandum read out by Appolis, the workers demanded that the DTIC put pressure on Clover to reinstate all workers and facilitate the process of making Clover independent of the Israeli company Central Bottling Company which owns Clover through the Milco SA consortium.
Sebei said GIWUSA had been objecting to Milco’s involvement in Clover since 2019 “in solidarity with oppressed people of Palestine”.
Malebo Mabitje-Thompson, acting director general at the DTIC, accepted the memorandum on behalf of Minister Ebrahim Patel, who she said is recovering from Covid. “I’ve heard all your grievances and our commitment is that we will respond to the issues you raised,” she said.
She did not say when the workers would receive a response but she said the department was already in consultations with the Industrial Development Corporation and the National Empowerment Fund to assist Clover workers.
The workers then marched from the department to the Union Buildings.
SAFTU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said union officials from SAFTU, GIWUSA and FAWU would meet on Thursday evening to speak about intensifying the strike. He called on all workers to boycott Clover products.
In a statement released on Thursday, Clover management said trading conditions were difficult with poor economic growth, rising costs and subdued consumer spending. Covid had added to these pressures. “For these reasons a comprehensive strategic review of all aspects of Clover’s business was undertaken, which led to the difficult decision to restructure.”
Clover said it had explored “all possible avenues” to minimise retrenchments.
The company had not responded to GroundUp’s questions by the time of publication.
§Workers Demanding Worker Control Of Clover
by Labor Video Project
The unions and workers at Clover are calling for it to be nationalized under workers control.
§Clover Solidarity Support Action In Israel
by Labor Video Project
Supporters of the Clover workers in South Afriica protested at the Wertheim Coca-Cola franchise in Israel. The billionaire Wertheim family are supporters of rightwing Israeli parties and the founder of the company Moshe was given the Coca-Cola franchise for Israel.
§Israel Coca-Cola Owned By Wertheim Family Delivering To Settlements
by Labor Video Project
The Wertheim family which controls Coca-Cola helps support the illegal settlements in Israel.
§ANC South African Government Helping Apartheid Israel
by Labor Video Project
The South African ANC Ramaphosa government has helped the Israeli company owned by the Wertheim family to take over the largest dairy company in South Africa. Ramaphosa also has the franchise license for McDonald's in South Africa.
§Clover Boycott Apartheid Israel
by Labor Video Project
The unions are calling for a boycott of Israeli controlled Clover and are also calling for support actions around the world on January 25, 2022.
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