Wage dispute deepens

THE dispute between Amalgamated Beverage Industries, the soft drinks division of SA Breweries, and the Food and Allied Workers Union over wages intensified yesterday.

This comes after the union (Fawu) vowed to increase the momentum of the consumer boycott of all ABI products.

The call was made by trade federation Cosatu in support of its member affiliate Fawu. Cosatu urged consumers not to buy SAB products.

Addressing a media conference in Johannesburg yesterday, Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola also hinted at plans of the union to use the coming 2010 World Cup to pressure ABI.

"Unions can use the coming World Cup to twist the arm of the employers to certain concessions," he said.

Workers were "angry" after some "compromise gestures" made on the initial demands such as accepting to work 45 hours a week instead of 40 hours, he said.

"Of course for management to think that members will go out on strike for about 3 weeks and return to work without an improved percentage increment is unimaginable," Masemola said.

He distanced his union's members from any acts of violence and said with the "moral and other support" they have received from international workers unions employed by the Coca-Cola Company, Fawu members "are simply encouraged to continue with the strike".

ABI managing director John Ustas said the company remained "deeply concerned" about the continuation of violence and intimidation during protest actions.

"There have been four serious outbreaks of violence in recent days, yet Fawu remains unconvinced that its members or supporters are involved," he said.

Ustas said workers in more than 60percent of ABI operations were back at work and urged others to return to work.

"Our offer is fair and reasonable, and it will not change. Many strikers have indicated that they would like to return to work, but are afraid of the ongoing intimidation."