The bosses of the Simba Ouix factory are proud of their products. They put a big proud lion on all the packets of chips that they make. And they say their chips just “roar with flavour”.
But two months ago it was the bosses turn to roar – with anger.
This is how it happened.
Three workers were fired from the factory. The other workers said this was unfair. So they went on strike. The bosses did not listen. They fired nearly 400 workers from the factory.
But the workers did not go home and look for new jobs. They belong to a union called the Sweet, Food and Allied Workers’ Union. And together with their union they decided to fight for their jobs.
The workers used two weapons in their fight – a weapon called boycott ( when people refuse to buy the goods of a firm) and a weapon called unity (when people stand together to fight for their rights.)
On 2 November the Simba workers won their struggle. They all got their jobs back.
“Re tshwere tau ka ditlena,” said one of the workers. “We have fought with the lion. And we have won.”
Learn and Teach spoke to another worker from the Simba factory. He told us about the boycott and about unity. And he told us how the Simba workers used these things to win their struggle.
THE UNION COMES TO THE FACTORY
“In 1982 a union called the Sweet Food and Allied Workers’ Uilion came to the factory. Soon all the workers joined.
“The union made the bosses increase our wages. And the union made the bosses fire a white manager at the factory. The workers said this man swore at them and called them ‘bobbejaans’.
“The bosses were not happy to see a union at the factory. They said the shop stewards (the worker leaders) were not working for the factory. They said they were working for the union.
Posters telling workers about union meetings were also torn down. These things led to a lot of trouble between the workers and the bosses.
A POTATO AND A JOB
”Then the plant manager fired a worker called David – for throwing a potato at another worker. They said David damaged the firm’s property.
“The workers supported David. They said the bosses must give him his job back. But the bosses did not listen. Later they fired another two workers.
“The bosses and the workers had many meetings to speak about these problems. But the bosses still refused to give the workers their jobs back.
“We workers were worried about our friends. We were angry. So we decided to stop work. We said ‘we will not make any chips until the workers get their jobs back.’
“But the bosses did not hear. One boss even said they could not talk to ‘africans’. He said they wanted to employ ‘coloureds’ only.
“So on 12 September the bosses fired all the workers at Simba Quix.
FORWARD WITH A BOYCOTT
“We had many meetings after we got fired. At our first meeting we decided to go forward with a boycott.
“We knew that if many people did not buy Simba Chips then the firm must give us our jobs back.
“We knew that many black people buy Simba products. And chips are not important -like food. We buy them just for fun. So it was an easy thing to stop buying chips.
“WE MUST NOT FIGHT ALONE”
“And we also knew we must not isolate ourselves -we must not fight alone. We needed support from other trade unions, community organisations and political organisations. This is the only way to win a boycott.
“So we asked many organisations to support the boycott.
Our union belongs to FOSATU. All the FOSATU unions gave support. So did other trade unions like CUSA, CCAWUSA, SAAWU, MGWUSA, GAWU, SASDU and AFCWU.
“Community organisations helped us. We got a lot of help from TlC, NIC, COSAS, AYCO, SOYCO, AZAPO, AZASO and AZASM. The UDF also gave us a lot of support.
“Many shopkeepers and traders’ organisations also supported the boycott. They did not sell Simba products in their shops.
“DIFFERENCES? – NO PROBLEMS”
“You say many of these organisations have strong disagreements with each other. I only heard about such things after the boycott started. But these differences caused no problems for us. Every body gave their support.
“During the boycott we printed thousands of pamphlets and stickers. All the organisations helped us to hand these out to the people.
OLD WOMEN WITH NO HUSBANDS
“We also collected money for the workers – especially for the old women with no husbands. We also helped workers with HP agreements They could not pay every month. They were worried the shops would come and take their furniture.
UNITY MEANS VICTORY
“The boycott hurt the management of Simba Quix. “After seven weeks they got worried. They called us to a meeting.
“They said they will give us our jobs back from January next year. And they said they will give us money until we start work again.
WORKERS CALL OFF THE BOYCOTT
” On Friday 2 November we had a big meeting of all the Simba Quix workers.
“The workers discussed the offer from management. They decided to accept. So we called off the boycott. The workers were happy to get their jobs back.
“We also called on all organisations and people to stop the boycott.”
THE WORKERS GIVE THANKS
Learn and Teach spoke to another worker at this meeting.
“The boycott showed that we workers can stand together,” he said. “Now we know we can unite to fight for other things.”
“And I give thanks to the organisations and the shopkeepers for their support,” he said. ” Without them we could not have won.”