Aspen goes to court to stop strike

Union describes many grievances

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Photo of picket
Aspen Pharmacare workers in Port Elizabeth are picketing in shifts. Photo: Joseph Chirume

Striking workers of Aspen Pharmacare, the country’s largest generic pharmaceutical manufacturer, have been served with letters to stop their industrial action. The company also approached the Labour Court on Friday with an urgent court order.

The letter stated, “Kindly be advised that in light of the persistent and ongoing participation in picketing,the company has served and filed an urgent application at the Labour Court to obtain an interdict declaring such picketing unlawful. The application will be heard on Monday morning 23 May 2016. The company instructs, once again, that all employees are to refrain from participating in any further picketing, protest action and/or unprotected industrial action. As communicated previously,the company fully reserves its rights to take disciplinary action against any employee engaged in the aforementioned conduct.”

The workers started picketing outside the company premises on Thursday in Port Elizabeth last week. They are demanding better working conditions. According to Thulani Radasi, an organiser for the South African Chemical Workers’ Union (SACWU), workers have the following complaints:

  • Shop stewards are being victimised and are now afraid to do union work.
  • There is outstanding money owed to workers in a share scheme project
  • People who have worked for the company for more than ten years are still contract workers. “We want them to be employed full-time. We always ask the management about the benefits of these workers they have accrued all these years. Management then answers by victimising us and terminating the concerned workers’ contracts,” said Radasi. He claimed this was a breach of an agreement Aspen signed with workers in 2014.

Radasi also said the union numbers are decreasing in an “unexplained fashion”. He said, “We are told that we were 748 last month,and this number decreased to 542 this month. We ask the company to give us proof that our membership is decreasing,but they do not want to release the paperwork to us.”

“We want Stephen Saad [Aspen’s CEO] to come here to Port Elizabeth to address us. We are fed up with the local management. He should address us and explain to us what happened to the workers’ shares that are not being paid to them,” said Radasi.

Aspen Head of Communications, Shauneen Beukes, said, “Aspen will investigate all the allegations raised by workers and issue a statement to the media in due course.”

Aspen’s application for an interdict is being heard this morning. This story will be updated as soon as the outcome is known.

UPDATE on 24 May at 9:09am: Aspen was granted the interdict.

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TOPICS:  Labour Labour unions

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