Ceres Fruit Stocks Depleting as Strike Hurts S. Africa Business

  • Union wants a 9 percent pay rise plus 1,000 rand profit share
  • Company to mull union's demands memorandum received Wednesday

Ceres Fruit Growers (Pty) Ltd., one of South Africa’s biggest packing and storage companies for apples and pears, is depleting stocks as a pay strike by members curbs operations.

While the company has managed to meet orders and to export items in cold storage, this “will no longer be possible in due course as stocks are running low,” Managing Director Francois Malan said in an e-mailed response to questions Thursday. “All aspects of the business are now impacted upon by this strike. Ceres’s brands include Tru-Cape apples and pears.

Members of the Food and Allied Workers Union at the company have been on strike since the start of September, demanding a 12.5 percent increase in pay. FAWU has said it could settle for a lower raise if its members get a share of profit. The annual inflation rate in South Africa, where one in every four people is unemployed, was 4.6 percent in August.

Half of Ceres’s 800 employees are FAWU members, Malan said. Unionized workers staged a march Wednesday in the Ceres municipality, about 144 kilometers (89 miles) from Cape Town, to hand over a memorandum of demands, he said in a separate e-mail.

The union’s demands equate to a 9 percent increase and a 1,000 rand ($74) annual profit share per person, spokeswoman Dominique Martin said by e-mail. Employees earn a minimum of 896 rand weekly, she said.

While the producer can’t yet quantify the losses as a result of the strike, the damage to property “already amounts to millions of rands,” the company said in a statement.

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