The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday said it was deeply concerned by the pending jobs blood bath in the poultry industry, and also alarmed by government’s “deafening silence” on a matter of the utmost national concern.
This comes after Rainbow Chickens Limited, the country’s biggest chicken producer, indicated that it would be retrenching 1 350 farm workers and close four farms in Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal.
The latest reports also indicated that a total of 50 000 food and farm jobs could be lost following the influx of cheap chicken imports from the European Union (EU) countries.
In a statement, Cosatu said that this could be at the levels of jobs lost when government allowed cheap Chinese imports to collapse South African textile industry in the 1990s.
“Our poultry industry is under severe pressure from the concessions government was forced to make to the United States to allow South Africa to remain part of the US’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade agreement with African nations,” Cosatu said.
“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.”
Cosatu said government needed 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. This needs to include the following as a matter of the highest urgency.”
Cosatu proposed that government holds an urgent meeting with the poultry sector to develop an action plan to save jobs and put in place and enforce protective measures for the sector to block cheap imports and dumping.
Other measures Cosatu wants is to consider subsidising the poultry and agricultural sector, in particular new and emerging farmers, large scale employers and farmers who champion progressive labour relations.
But government, through the Department of Trade and Industry, has already said it was in discussions with the local poultry producers to address the challenges in the industry.