Labour Takes Heineken-Distell to Court

Producer News

Heineken-Distell Merger Sparks Labor Dispute

Following the recent merger of Heineken Beverages with Distell, one of South Africa’s largest alcohol producers, approximately 50 employees, predominantly forklift drivers, have filed a complaint with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The grievance is centered around their current employment status, as they seek permanent positions within the company.

Workers Challenge Flexi-Contracts The group of employees, currently on flexible contracts with Vericon Outsourcing, are pushing for permanent employment. Their claim is that despite being on temporary contracts, the nature of their work is consistent and integral to the company’s operations, warranting full-time employment status as outlined in the Labour Relations Act.

CCMA Arbitration Pending The matter, backed by the Simunye Workers’ Forum (SWF) and the Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), is progressing to arbitration. While a specific date for this proceeding is not yet determined, it marks a significant step in the workers’ quest for recognition as permanent employees.

Competition Tribunal’s Conditions Under Scrutiny This development follows the Competition Tribunal’s approval of the Heineken-Distell merger in March 2023, which included several stipulations regarding employee treatment. These conditions encompassed restrictions on layoffs, fair wages for all staff (including temporary and outsourced workers), and a thorough examination of complaints by outsourced workers. However, there are growing concerns that these requirements are not being fully met.

Allegations of Coerced Contract Renewals One employee, speaking under anonymity, recounted an incident in September 2022 where workers were allegedly coerced into renewing short-term contracts under threat of job loss. This situation highlights the ongoing struggle for job security and access to benefits like provident funds.

Heineken and Vericon Outsourcing Respond In response to the dispute, Heineken’s spokesperson, Dennis Matsane, indicated that the primary respondent in the CCMA case is Vericon Outsourcing. Heineken, although named as a respondent, has yet to receive formal notice of arbitration. Matsane emphasized Heineken’s commitment to an amicable resolution. On the other hand, Vericon Outsourcing has not yet responded to inquiries regarding the matter.