Strike at Robertson Winery enters its second month

Workers want a minimum of R8,500 a month

Photo of Robertson wine bottles

Striking Robertson Winery workers have called for a boycott of the company’s wines.

By Ashleigh Furlong

21 September 2016

Striking Robertson Winery workers have been without wages for a month, as negotiations with the company have deadlocked. Workers are calling for a minimum wage of R8,500 and the company is proposing a minimum wage of just over R4,425.

Karel Swart, deputy general secretary of the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), said workers were in a “difficult situation” but the union had arranged food parcels for the workers in an attempt to tide them over.

CSAAWU has been travelling with workers around the Western Cape to garner support for a boycott of the company’s “blood wine”.

Swart said workers claimed there was a disparity between the wages of white and coloured workers at the winery, with white workers earning more, even if they did the same work.

CSAAWU also believes that the winery is “more than capable to financially meet the workers’ demand”, claiming that the company has increased its profits over the past few years, but the workers’ share of profits has decreased.

The union says the average wage for a general worker at the winery ranges from R3,200 to R3,400 a month. The winery on the other hand, says the minimum wage is currently around R4,099 and the 8% increase the company is proposing will bring the minimum to R4,426.71, with the average wage being R6,140 a month.

In a statement, the winery said at the beginning of the strike the union had demanded an increase of 57% but this had now risen to 150%.

“We remain totally committed to improving the living standards for all our employees and we have a long term strategy towards this end,” said the winery’s CEO, Anton Cilliers. ”As an example, amongst other terms and conditions of employment, we provide free clinic facilities to all our employees and we have certain paid maternity leave for the mothers amongst our workforce.”

After a meeting on Monday, said Swart, the winery had agreed to provide the union with financial statements by 28 September.

Swart said this would allow workers to determine whether the winery could afford to pay the workers R8,500.

During the strike, the winery obtained a court interdict to prevent what the company called “extraordinary levels of intimidation and threats of violence against those employees wishing to work during the strike”. The winery is now set to go back to court, claiming the union is in contempt of the interdict.

CSAAWU denies this, claiming that the strike has been peaceful and that the court interdict itself is being used to “intimidate and threaten” people.