YET ANOTHER MAJOR SUPERMARKET EXPLOITS ITS WORKERS
On 28 February, 2017, 58 workers who make baked goods for Pick ‘n Pay embarked on a protected strike, demanding to be made permanent Pick ‘n Pay workers, wages of R10 000 per month and an end to victimisation by the company. Although the strike is connected to one of the country’s biggest retail giants, barely anyone in the public has even heard about it. This, the striking workers argue, is largely because they have been rendered invisible by Pick ‘n Pay’s cynical use of a chain of third-party employers called Assist Bakeries.
On the first day of the strike the management brought in scab labourers and gained a court interdict to prevent the strikers from picketing anywhere within view of the factory premises. Production continued, and life continued almost as if they did not exist. But as the strike continues on, this group of workers are fighting to be seen and heard.
The story that the striking workers tell is one that looks to expose the questionable labour practices of Pick ‘n Pay — a company with a squeaky-clean public image. Workers claim that Pick ‘n Pay uses supposedly independent companies as a front to carry out its dirty work. But this also appears to be a story belonging to millions of other precarious workers in South Africa that have been rendered invisible, expendable and left without access to basic rights due to the growth of different forms of third-party employment. These are workers who have been ignored by the trade union movement and left to organise themselves.