Fair play sought for re­trenched workers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF RE­PORTER

THE FairPlay So­cial Sup­port Sum­mit, called to help thou­sands of chicken in­dus­try workers ren­dered job­less by dumped chicken im­ports, will re­sult in col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween non-profit de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions and the pri­vate sec­tor.

The one-day sum­mit, held in part­ner­ship with the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg, was fa­cil­i­tated by the FairPlay anti-dump­ing move­ment, which has fo­cused on the im­pact of dumped im­ports, par­tic­u­larly on in­dus­try workers and ru­ral sub­sis­tence chicken farm­ers.

Dumped prod­ucts, sold be­low the cost of pro­duc­tion in the home coun­try, have put the South African chicken in­dus­try into cri­sis, and thou­sands of jobs are at risk.

Dur­ing the sum­mit, a “Cry for Ac­tion” pe­ti­tion was fi­nalised. It will be sent to President Ja­cob Zuma and Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Rob Davies.

The pe­ti­tion, with over 8 000 sig­na­to­ries so far, calls on the gov­ern­ment to act against dump­ing, to recog­nise the mis­ery caused by dump­ing-re­lated job losses, and to act ur­gently in the in­ter­ests of those whose in­comes are at risk.

“This has been a very suc­cess­ful gather­ing and it has ex­ceeded our ex­pec­ta­tions,” said FairPlay founder Fran­cois Baird.

“We set out to­day to ad­dress the plight of the thou­sands of South Africans who have lost their jobs be­cause of dump­ing.

“Each job lost is a fam­ily in mis­ery.

“Most of them have no other means of sup­port, and find­ing new work, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas, is dif­fi­cult in a coun­try with one of the high­est un­em­ploy­ment rates in the world.

“We came here with a num­ber of im­por­tant ob­jec­tives, and we have achieved them.

“It has been very re­ward­ing to see how peo­ple from across the spec­trum are com­mit­ted to find work­able so­lu­tions to as­sist those most af­fected by dump­ing.”

Baird stressed that the so­lu­tions were not only about money.

They would in­clude re­train­ing of workers and up­lift­ment pro­grammes where hard- hit com­mu­ni­ties could work on in­come- gen­er­at­ing projects. En­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment and sus­tain­able in­come gen­er­a­tion will be a key fo­cus of the sup­port sought.

“FairPlay will serve as a con­duit through which sug­ges­tions and pro­pos­als will be di­rected to the peo­ple who can help, and we call on all South Africans to add their voice – whether they can of­fer a job op­por­tu­nity to a re­trenched worker, a bur­sary or study as­sis­tance to the child of a re­trenched worker; train­ing to reskill workers who have lost jobs or merely to add their name to the Cry for Ac­tion pe­ti­tion – it’s within ev­ery­one’s reach to do some­thing,” said Baird.

Ear­lier Baird had opened the sum­mit by em­pha­sis­ing the im­pact of dump­ing on poor peo­ple in South Africa. The key­note ad­dress was de­liv­ered by Jus­tice Richard Gold­stone, an in­ter­na­tional ju­rist and for­mer Con­sti­tu­tional Court judge, who is a FairPlay pa­tron.

He said that the gov­ern­ment should act to pre­vent preda­tory dump­ing, which he de­fined as dumped im­ports de­signed to kill the lo­cal in­dus­try.

“If the facts es­tab­lish preda­tory dump­ing – that the party or par­ties dump­ing have as their mo­tive or one of their mo­tives the de­struc­tion of South African com­peti­tors – then the rule of law and fair play in trade dic­tate that on moral and le­gal grounds ac­tion should be taken.

“It would in­deed be in the in­ter­ests of the gov­ern­ment to take such ac­tion against a prac­tice that is do­ing dam­age to a very im­por­tant in­dus­try and po­ten­tially caus­ing a sig­nif­i­cant loss of em­ploy­ment for thou­sands of workers,” Gold­stone said.

Thokosane Tha­bete, who had worked in the chicken in­dus­try for 30 years be­fore she was re­trenched in Jan­uary, shared with sum­mit at­ten­dees her con­cerns as an un­em­ployed mother who can’t con­tinue to pro­vide an ed­u­ca­tion for her chil­dren.

“My son is now in his first year of ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, but with­out a job I can’t pro­vide for him for next year.

“Where will he go? Will he join the young­sters on the street who hang around be­cause they don’t have jobs?”

The spec­tre of crime and drugs in a com­mu­nity that has sud­denly fallen on hard times due to mass re­trench­ments is a real worry for her and her neigh­bours, she said.

Among the plans that emerged from the Sum­mit was an un­der­tak­ing to look into the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act and its pro­vi­sions in terms of food la­belling, as dumped im­ports of­ten end up in shops with­out hav­ing their ori­gins clearly spec­i­fied, which has im­pli­ca­tions for food safety.

In his clos­ing ad­dress, Marthi­nus Stander, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Coun­try Bird, South Africa’s third-largest chicken pro­ducer and an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the SA Poul­try As­so­ci­a­tion, said if bird flu could be con­tained, and with swift and de­ci­sive ac­tion by gov­ern­ment to pre­vent con­tin­ued dump­ing, the South African chicken in­dus­try could grow in­stead of con­tract.

“If gov­ern­ment acts, we can halt or re­duce fu­ture re­trench­ments. The re­al­ity is that the ef­fects of the re­trench­ments that have al­ready taken place will re­main with us.”

Stander said co- or­di­nated ac­tion to help those most af­fected would re­main a pri­or­ity. Thank­ing par­tic­i­pants for their in­put, he told them their work was far from over – “it has only just started.”


Dumped chick­ens have se­ri­ously dam­aged the lo­cal in­dus­try.

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