Union members during a protest in Johannesburg. Fawu is poised to split with Cosatu, sources say. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO
Union members during a protest in Johannesburg. Fawu is poised to split with Cosatu, sources say. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) on Wednesday threw its weight behind a pro-Palestinian lobby group fighting an Israeli-led consortium's  proposed bid to buy Clover.

Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa (BDS) is fiercely opposed to MilCo’s plans to buy  the dairy and beverages maker and has threatened a boycott of Clover products.

BDS’s outrage prompted the consortium's local partner Brimstone to review its participation in the transaction, which will culminate in Clover’s delisting from the JSE.

Brimstone’s about-turn on the transaction followed a meeting the  investment group held with BDS last week.

In a statement on Wednesday, Fawu expressed its support for the pro-Palestinian group.. The trade union cited the Israeli origins of the consortium’s lead partner, Central Bottling Company (CBC).

FAWU said, in addition to CBC’s Israeli origins, it was also concerned about food sovereignty and job losses. “It has been a long-standing principle of ours that anything to do with Apartheid Israel or associated companies must be rejected in line with isolating and boycotting this regime in support of Palestinian statehood,” Fawu said.  

It said Clover was the only locally-owned dairy producer out of the four major dairy companies in SA. “It is our firm belief that it must remain in domestic ownership seeing that the other three major dairy producers Danone, Parmalat and Nestle are all foreign-owned. 

The union poured cold water on claims that the deal was consistent with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s foreign direct investment drive, saying it was not a new investment but a takeover of an existing asset.

“As with most, if not all mergers and acquisitions, Fawu is concerned about job losses as these transnational companies seem to believe in a cost-cutting business model which often includes outsourcing merchandising and other so-called non-core functions that will most likely lead to job losses,” it said.

Despite the opposition, MilCo has reiterated its “full” commitment to the transaction.

“We are excited about the opportunities that the South African economy offers and the plans we have identified to grow the loved Clover brands and the sector as a whole,” the consortium said in a statement last week.

njobenis@businesslive.co.za