Nestlé settles with union to end strike

Members of a workers' union at Nestle, NUFBWSAW were on strike for the past two months. Photo by Johnnie Isaac

The acrimonious wage dispute was settled with a 4% increment with Nestlé.

The National Union of Food, Beverages, Wine, Spirits and Allied Workers (NUFBWSAW) has put to an end its two-month-long strike at the Nestlé factory in East London.

The union and the global foods giant reached an agreement of a 4% salary increase, backdated to January 2021 and a once-off gratuity of R3,000 for each employee. 

NUFBWSAW members in East London went on strike on the 16th of May after salary negotiations with the employer broke down in September last year. The union was demanding a salary increase of 7.5 percent which was later revised to 7 percent.  They also wanted wage alignment with other Nestlé factories in the country, claiming that workers from the East London factory are paid less than their counterparts that are on the same grade but in different provinces. 

During the strike NUFBWSAW members also gave Nestlé a memorandum, calling for an end to racial wage discrepancies, a claim the company vehemently denied exists. 

The strike was characterised by incidents of violence against non-striking members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), but NUFBWSAW rejected claims that their members were behind the attacks. 

Nestlé’s Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director, Saint-Francis Tohlang said the agreement put an end to a protracted eight week strike. In relation to the matter of wage alignment, he said: “Both parties have also reached an agreement for the matter to be referred for independent facilitation, which will complement a process that had already commenced with the other two unions.”

He reiterated that there are no wage discrepancies that are based on discrimination. “Our salaries are in full compliance with the Employment Equity Act, which makes provision for fair criteria to be applied to justify differences in salaries such as experience and tenure of service,” said Tohlang. 

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NUFBWSAW spokesperson, Ndlelantle Ntante said their members welcome the agreed settlement though they are currently in quarantine and expected back to work from next week Thursday. “The other disputes are being dealt with nationally and we are hoping that they will be brought to finality by the time we re-embark on new wage negotiations,” said Ntanti. 

Fawu was unavailable to comment, its national spokesperson Dominique Martin said they will issue a statement once they get sentiments from their members from the East London factory. 

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