Workers at the Gerardo Trading Company in Industria, Johannesburg, braved the cold weather yesterday and demonstrated outside the company's gates after being fired for refusing to sign new contracts with an outside labour broker.
The workers accuse management of hiring the Red Ants to intimidate them despite their holding peaceful protest.
"They are pointing guns at us without provocation," said one of the protesting workers.
The 41 workers, all members of the South African Chemical Workers Union (Sacwu), were dismissed on Monday June 2.
"In April we were told that the human resource department would be outsourced and we were given three days to respond," shop steward Victor Gaereke said.
"We told management there was too little time for us to come up with suggestions on the outsourcing of the department ."
Gerardo Trading company manufactures medicines and has a workforce of 123 employees.
Managing director Lance Abrahams said they had given notice to the union and all employees on April 21 to come up with suggestions on the idea, "but received no response".
"They had until June 2 to respond and when they did not we then retrenched them," Abrahams said.