Workers down tools at SA plastic factory over harsh working conditions

Screwdriver. Photo: iStock.

Screwdriver. Photo: iStock.

Numsa said at least 150 workers had been on strike at the firm for the last two weeks.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said on Tuesday that workers had embarked on a strike at Venk-Pac Plastics in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, to protest against working conditions at the plant.

Venk-Pac provides complete plastic packaging solutions from its factories in South Africa. The firm, which currently employs over 200 workers, sells its products to the fast-moving consumer goods industry, bedding and furniture manufacturers, industrial and construction companies, and various other sectors.

Numsa said at least 150 workers had been on strike at the firm for the last two weeks, claiming that some managers had physically assaulted them and that female workers are allegedly forced by managers to have sex in exchange for jobs. There are also allegations of racism and discrimination against African workers by their Indian counterparts.

Numsa acting spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said the union was shocked by the treatment of workers at this firm. She said they would do everything in their power to assist these workers who do not have a union representing them.

“We condemn Venk-Pac management for this gross abuse of human rights. Workers at Venk-Pac have also alleged that when they tried to report these issues to the South African Police Services (SAPS), the officers urged them to withdraw their cases,” Hlubi said.

“It is outrageous that a company like Venk-Pac should even be allowed to trade given the level of abuse that workers claim they have been exposed to. Workers complain that even though they have lodged complaints with the Labour Department in the region, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.”

However, the Venk-Pac management said the strike had been resolved and that operations had resumed. The management refused to give more details on how the impasse was resolved and asked for the journalist’s contact details promising to call him soon.

Hlubi said Numsa will pressurise the labour department to intervene and to send inspectors to the company “so they can hear first-hand how workers are suffering”.


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