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Cosatu: Government must save poultry industry

Cosatu: Government must save poultry industry

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said the pending job losses in South Africa's poultry industry were unacceptable, adding that the government needed to intervene urgently.

The union federation said the matter was now of national importance, adding that the silence from the South African government had been deafening.

Central to the storm are the concessions that the South African government made to the United States, in an attempt to remain a part of the AGOA trade agreement between the United States and several African nations.

However, COSATU believes there will now be a greater cost, in a country that is already grappling severely with unemployment.

The sentiment is, although not in so many words, that 'you got us into this mess, now help us get out of it'.

"Now our industry is battling to keep its head above the water with the dumping of thousands of tonnes of heavily subsidised cheap chicken imports from the European Union and Brazil," said COSATU National Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

COSATU cites reports by companies like Rainbow Chicken in KwaZulu-Natal, which looks like it will be forced to retrench 1350 farm workers and close four of its farms. However the union federation believes that will merely be the beginning.

"The latest reports have indicated a total of 50 000 food and farm jobs could be lost and that this could be at the levels of jobs lost ,when government allowed cheap Chinese imports to collapse our textile industry in the 1990s," added Pamla.

Pamla said it was not the motives of the South African government that needed to be called into question, but rather the level of incompetence.

"Government needs to wake up and provide the necessary leadership to save this industry. We cannot afford for government to continue sleeping on the job. It needs to come with a clear programme and plan to save and protect our fragile and strategic poultry industry," added Pamla.

"It's deeply troubling that to date government has been silent on this crisis. Government and political leadership should spend less time worrying about partisan conferences and focus more time on protecting and creating jobs. Our leaders should remember that workers are watching and will remind them of their inaction during the next vote harvesting season."

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