Ex-SAB workers demand unpaid benefits

The workers are, at their most ambitious, demanding that the trading license of AB-InBev be suspended. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Former SAB workers have vowed to continue with their struggle to get monies owed to them.

A group of workers once employed by South African Breweries (SAB, now Anheuser-Busch InBev) picketed outside Parliament demanding the intervention of different parliamentary committees in their 18-year-old dispute with the brewing company.

In May and August 2001, SAB retrenched 115 workers but the Labour Court (C1008/2001) ruled that the workers were unfairly dismissed and should be reinstated.

According to one of the picketing workers, Mziwamadoda Bhaliwe, 61 workers were reinstated and 54 were not. Bhaliwe said that their union at the time, the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), reached a settlement with the employer that saw some workers reinstated. “As far as we understand the out-of-court settlement did not include us. It was therefore not valid,” he said.

The brewing company was pointing to the settlement with FAWU as its justification for defying its obligations in a story published by Elitsha last year.

Bhaliwe said that the provident fund payment he received was for 21 months of employment and not for 35 as stated in the judgement.

“We live in poverty because the company has not paid what is due to us. Some of us have divorced, our houses have been repossessed, are getting sick and some have died,” said Bhaliwe. The workers say that about forty of their original number have passed on.

Another worker, Macebo Pama, said that their lawyer is investigating the provident fund money and they hope that something will come of it as they live in poverty: “The company continues to make huge profits meanwhile we are struggling,” he said.

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Over and above the demand for the monies due to them, the workers are demanding that parliamentarians amend the pension law so that there is no expiry date on claims. They also want “a forensic investigation into all financial institutions over their failure to pay benefits and that all unpaid benefits be paid out within the next year.”

Shadrack Mzazi who was a machine operator at the time of the dismissal said that his children could not study further because he did not have money to pay for their education.

The workers also want the trading license of the brewing company to be suspended.

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