Clover factory. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Clover factory. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Trade unions opposed to the proposed sale of foods and beverages company Clover Industries to consortium Milco  urged the Competition Tribunal on Wednesday to block the R4.8bn transaction, over concerns about job losses.

The unions — the General Industries Workers' Union (Giwusa) and Inqubelaphambili Trade Union (ITU) — whose members work for Clover, wanted to derail the merger as it would result in the loss of 516 jobs.

In July, the Competition Commission recommended that the tribunal approve with conditions Milco's acquisition of Clover. The conditions included a moratorium on job cuts for a two years after the approval of the merger.

On Wednesday, the two trade unions told the tribunal to block the transaction, which will result in Clover's delisting from the JSE.

Job losses

Giwusa general secretary John Appollis said the commission should not have agreed to a merger that would result in loss of hundreds of jobs.

It does not matter that the job losses will come in the third year after the implementation of the merger. We do not see the benefit of this merger for employees. It will only benefit the shareholders,” Appollis said.

Giwusa represents more than 2,000 employees at Clover. Alongside the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), it is one of the largest unions in the company.

But Clover executive for supply chain, distribution and human resources Jacques van Heerden said Clover's growth after the merger would benefit employees, suppliers, customers and the government.

“Milco represents a strong group of operators and investors who have extensive international expertise in the dairy, juice and beverage industries. They plan to use this operating experience to create growth of Clover's sales in SA and abroad, bringing Clover's loved brands within reach of a wider range of customers,” Van Heerden said.

Appollis said the union was also opposed to the inclusion of Israel-based Central Bottling Company (CBC) in the consortium.

“CBC is operating in the occupied Palestinian territories. It has a number of operations there. It is in violation of international law by operating in occupied territories,” he said.

njobenis@businesslive.co.za