Blood bath as Rain­bow job hopes fade

CityPress - - Business - PADDY HARPER busi­ness@city­press.co.za

The blood bath in the poul­try in­dus­try has gath­ered pace, with al­most 800 jobs set to be lost at RCL Foods’ Cam­per­down plant in KwaZulu-Natal.

Japhta Malinga, pro­vin­cial or­gan­iser at the Food and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union (Fawu), told City Press on Fri­day the union was “hope­ful” that the of­fer of sev­er­ance pack­ages and re­lo­ca­tions would “save as many jobs as pos­si­ble” at RCL Foods, for­merly Rain­bow Chicken.

Malinga said that, of the 272 af­fected work­ers at RCL’s Ham­mars­dale farms, 243 in­di­cated they would take pack­ages, as did 113 of 310 pro­duc­tion plant work­ers whose jobs were un­der threat.

A fur­ther 175 would do the same at an­other RCL farm, while about 70% of the re­main­ing work­ers had shown a will­ing­ness to re­lo­cate.

In sum­mary, out of the 778 RCL staff ex­pected to lose their jobs, 531 peo­ple have taken pack­ages and 247 work­ers face forced re­trench­ment – while an ad­di­tional 577 em­ploy­ees will take the re­lo­ca­tion op­tion.

Malinga said re­lo­ca­tion terms and al­lowances were be­ing ne­go­ti­ated with man­age­ment.

“The ma­jor­ity of those who took pack­ages have been with the firm for some time and many only have a year or two left [be­fore re­tire­ment age],” he said.

“Most of those who re­main are young and have only joined the firm since 2012 or 2013. Of these, about 70% are will­ing to re­lo­cate.”

RCL man­age­ment de­clined to com­ment on the process, but last month CEO Miles Dally said the com­pany had taken the de­ci­sion to re­trench in the face of losses caused by the sale of 27 500 tons of im­ported chicken a month in South Africa.

In Septem­ber, RCL is­sued a no­tice of in­ten­tion to re­trench the 1 355 work­ers – in terms of sec­tion 189 of the Labour Re­la­tions Act – be­cause of losses in­curred from the dump­ing of cheap im­ported chicken and drought-driven high feed costs.

How­ever, the union pro­posed a com­bi­na­tion of vol­un­tary sev­er­ance pack­ages and staff re­lo­ca­tions to fill va­cant posts at RCL farms in other parts of the coun­try to try to save some jobs – with the com­pany in­di­cat­ing it would agree to this.

At the same time, Fawu has ap­proached pro­vin­cial and na­tional gov­ern­ment to as­sist in set­ting up skills pro­grammes for work­ers tak­ing pack­ages. This to en­sure they can sur­vive af­ter their lump sum pay­ments – three weeks’ wages for ev­ery year served – are spent, and to pur­chase farms, which RCL in­tends sell­ing to off­set its losses.

Fawu hopes that, in the long run, the farms could be re­pur­posed for live­stock or crop pro­duc­tion with as­sis­tance from the agri­cul­ture, trade and in­dus­try, and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment sec­tors.

This could help to off­set the ef­fect of job losses at RCL and other com­pa­nies in the area.

On Novem­ber 22, Fawu and RCL man­age­ment will meet as part of a process me­di­ated by the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion.

Fawu will re­port back on the re­sponse of work­ers to the pro­posed re­lo­ca­tion and sev­er­ance pack­ages, which were pre­sented to them this week in a meet­ing at RCL’s Ham­mars­dale plant.

More sec­tion 189 lay­offs are loom­ing at As­tral Poul­try, owner of the Goldi and Moun­tain Val­ley chicken brands, which em­ploys 1 500 work­ers at its Ham­mars­dale op­er­a­tion. The com­pany is­sued an in­ten­tion to serve no­tice on Fawu this month.

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