Union takes SAB to competition authorities over retrenchments

Beer producer SAB and the unions are at loggerheads after the beer producer announced plans to trim the workforce.
Beer producer SAB and the unions are at loggerheads after the beer producer announced plans to trim the workforce.
Image: 123RF/Brent Hofacker

A labour union representing workers at SA Brewers is hauling the beer producer to competition authorities after the company decided to cut jobs.

The Food and Alliance Workers Union (Fawu) is frothing at the mouth after it emerged this week that the SAB, which was taken over by ABInBev in October 2016, was planning to retrench 500 workers.

The union deputy general secretary Mngomezulu Mayoyo on Thursday told SowetanLIVE that they intend filing a complaint with the competition authorities on Friday.

The union is arguing that the Competition Commission conditions that allowed the merger between ABInBev and SAB stated that the merged entity was allowed to start retrenching workers only five years after the merger.

Fawu deputy general secretary Mngomezulu Mayoyo accused the company of putting profits before worker.

"The SAB late last year retrenched 33 workers and the matter was referred to the Competition Commission because this action transgressed the merger conditions.

"While we are waiting for the Competition Commission to deal with the matter of the 33 employees, the SAB this month decided to embark on another process that would see more than 800 workers being retrenched. The company isn't allowed to break the rules set by the Competition Commission," said Mayoyo.

He added that though the restructuring process was currently before the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration and Mediation, the process will largely hinge the Competition Commission verdict.

"If the Competition Commission says the retrenchment process is violating merger rules, this means the CCMA process will go ahead. However, if the competition authorities say the retrench process is legal then we will head to the CCMA to deal with the process," he said.

SAB was not immediately available for comment. However, the company confirmed to SowetanLIVE's sister publication Business Day that 500 workers faced the axe as part of a review of its operations "in light of the prevailing economic conditions in SA". The company employs about 5,697 people.

The company further told Business Day the looming job cuts were not in contravention of the conditions AB InBev agreed to as part of the merger deal, saying the job cuts were due "regulatory uncertainty, above-inflation excise rates, as well as the prevailing trading conditions in the SA economy."