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MALKERNS – Red all around! This was the situation as employees of Rhodes Food Group, formerly known as Swazi Fruit Canners, donned their union T-shirts, took to the streets and demanded their salary increment after they were locked out by management yesterday.

This happened at the company’s premises situated in Malkerns, where the employees sang and danced for the better part of the day.
The ‘action’ is reported to have started in the morning and by 2pm, some of the employees were still standing in front of the company gates, while others were seated under trees and on the other side of the road.

There were police officers standing in groups in front of the first gate while others stood in front of the main gate, standing behind police shields.
Some of the employees were carrying placards with the words, ‘We want our 10 per cent’ written on them.


One of the employees, *Nomsa, said they had agreed on the 10 per cent after first demanding 15.
She alleged that management told them that it could only offer three per cent.

“What is a three per cent increase? In E10, that is only 30 cents. We have been asking for this increase since 2018, but we have received nothing,” she said.
Another employee, *Lindiwe, was quick to relay that their expenses were too high and that they could not take care of all their needs.
“We have to pay for transport to work, we have children to take care of and educate. How are we expected to do all of that with the money we make here?” she asked.

When asked when last they had a salary increment, the employees stated that it was around 2016 and that all they were demanding now was money they should have been paid last year.

They went on to explain that in October last year, they were supposed to have their salaries reviewed, which never happened.
According to the employees, the company had told them that it had no money.

 “The owner keeps telling us he has no money but we see truckloads of oranges and he has employed a large number of people. We were told sibakamdodi when they came into the facility one day in a truck,” said one employee.
 The employees lamented that they were having it tough as the second term meant that their children were going on school trips, something which needed money.

Furthermore, the employees said their union, Swaziland Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union (SAPAWU) had done its best to negotiate on their behalf to management but had never been successful.


 “We have done everything by the book, and today, we are exercising our right to strike. But they have called the police on us and they came with their big cars and threatened us with teargas,” decried another employee.

Elaborating on their plight, some of the employees explained how the night shift workers were sent away yesterday and the morning shift workers were also told not to come.

 “As we are outside right now, there are some workers inside the firm, working. In one of the departments, only casual workers are working today,” they alleged.

 Secretary General of the SAPAWU, Mancoba Dlamini, said they had brought forward four issues to the company management to review, and they had failed to reach an agreement and were shocked that the employer locked the gates.

“Besides the 10 per cent increment, we are trying to have the employer organise transport for workers employed in the pineapple farm in Siphofaneni who spend E200 per fortnight to get to and from work,” Dlamini said.


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: BUSINESSES operations
Should all businesses be allowed to operate beterrm 8-5pm?