Heneiken workers prepare to march against ‘sex for shifts’

Heineken workers are preparing to march against sexual abuse at the beer giant’s Sedibeng brewery.

The Heineken Workers Forum announced this week that it will be marching against an alleged “sex for shifts” system playing out at the brewery.

“Women experience extreme violence because of these unequal power relations,” the statement reads. “Supervisors expect women to give sex for being scheduled in good shifts, get a better job or even just keep the job.”

According to the statement, supervisors and managers at the brewery also use their power to demand money from both men and women for jobs.

Workers are expected to march on April 23.


“The Heineken Workers Forum has been trying to talk to Heineken about the problems of workers, but the company doesn’t listen. Instead, workers are intimidated, victimised and dismissed for speaking out,” the statement reads.

Millicent Maroga, Heineken’s corporate affairs director, has denied allegations that the company has turned a blind eye to sexual harassment claims.

According to Maroga, the allegations are not levelled directly at Heineken but at labour-broking company Imperial, which operates at the brewery.

“Both Heineken and Imperial have (independently of each other) put in place reporting channels (toll-free tip-off lines) where employees are encouraged to anonymously (if they choose to) report wrongdoing, including abuse of this nature,” Maroga told the Mail & Guardian.

“In addition to the tip-off line, Imperial has shared and workshopped their sexual harassment policy with their employees and provided various platforms to report misconduct.”

There have been no complaints received across the various platforms provided to Imperial workers, Maroga said.

In 2017, the M&G reported on the struggle of workers, many of whom were working at the brewery under various labour brokers, like Imperial, to be made permanent by Heineken.

READ MORE: Heineken issue ferments: Labour-broking shows few signs of disappearing

At the time, Zodwa Velleman — Heineken South Africa’s legal and corporate relations director — insisted that Heineken does not employ labour-broking companies but “third-party service providers” who use labour brokers.

If labour codes are breached, it is the responsibility of the third-party service providers, Velleman said.

Maroga reiterated this in response to the M&G’s questions.

“Additionally, we have previously commissioned an independent audit to assess the business practices of our service provider as it relates to Heineken. At the time, sexual harassment grievances were not flagged as one of the issues the business should address,” Maroga said.

The M&G’s 2017 report revealed that labour-broker workers who worked for CJK Labour Services — a company that at the time was contracted to Imperial at Heineken — took home a maximum of R185 after a 12-hour workday.

According to payslips seen by the M&G, on some occasions workers made as little as R24 for a 12-hour shift.

In July last year, the Constitutional Court made a landmark ruling on labour broking which interpreted Section 198 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) to mean that workers employed through labour brokers, after a three-month period, become permanent employees of the companies they are contracted to.

These workers must also be treated “not less favourably” than the client company’s permanent workers. They should earn the same wages and get the same benefits.

In response to the ruling , the labour broking sector’s employers’ body — the Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector (Capes) — disputed the “transfer of the employment relationship” after the stipulated three-month period.

READ MORE: Bye, brokers: Hello, service providers

According to Capes’ interpretation of the judgment, LRA rights and obligations transfer to the client company, but conditions of employment, specifically payroll services, remain the responsibility of the labour broker.

Following the ruling, Craig Kirchmann, an attorney for labour-broking company Assign Services, said that, for the labour-broking industry to thrive, labour brokers will have to ensure that they are experts at managing payrolls and the administration of workers.

Another means of survival would be the creation of firms that act as service providers, he added.

Despite the Constitutional Court’s judgment, and supposed efforts on the part of Heineken to review its contracts with service providers, the struggle against labour broking at Heineken has seemingly persisted.

In a statement announcing the march, the Heineken Workers Forum reiterated its call to be made permanent.

“In our view, the only solution to end such extreme abuse of power is to take power away from managers, especially those who work for labour broker companies,” the statement reads.

According to the statement, bottle sorters, production line checkers, cleaners and security typically work for labour brokers.

“We want to be employed directly by Heineken because Heineken is responsible for the current injustices and human rights abuses in the production process of their beers and ciders,” the statement adds.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC’s rotten apples on the chopping block

Now that the NEC has finalised its step-aside guidelines for those facing corruption charges, a swathe of officials will struggle to cling to their positions

Sisulu and Dlodlo punted to be on their way out

Because President Cyril Ramaphosa won the step-aside order in the ANC’s national executive committee, a cabinet reshuffle looms, with Sisulu and Dlodlo’s names on comrades’ lips

More top stories

State rejects pyramid-schemer’s plea: ‘I stole the money, and plead...

The state has rejected fraudster Roderick Cole-Edwards’ guilty plea for R11.6-million pyramid-scheme theft

Hot topic: Is crypto’s climate cost higher than its value?

The recent blockchain boom has been followed by concerns over its impact on the environment

The plight of the ‘missing middle’ is no joke, Nzimande

Parents who, on paper, look like they can afford to pay their children’s university fees often can’t. They also miss out on funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

More ethnically diverse bone marrow donors needed to save lives

The myth that regenerative stem cells are body parts has led to donor reluctance
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…