NUMSA condemns UPD for shooting at unarmed pickets


The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) condemns in the strongest terms the management of United Pharmaceutical Distribution (UPD) for shooting at unarmed defenceless workers during a picket!

Workers at UPD in Gauteng have been on strike since Monday to demand higher wages and improved benefits. On Tuesday, a private security company fired on workers with rubber bullets, on the instruction of the company. At least five workers were treated for their injuries as a result.

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, NUMSA National Spokesperson, said: ‘We have opened a case at the police station because we intend to pursue this matter.’ ‘UPD is a pharmaceutical distribution company which is part of the Clicks group and supplies them with pharmaceutical products. They also provide hospitals with surgical equipment.


The management team at UPD does not want the world to know that they abuse workers through labour brokers. Hundreds of their employees are exploited by Labour brokers and UPD is blatantly ignoring the labour law judgement which calls for them to be made permanent after three months.

Below are some of the other issues which have caused workers to withdraw their labour at the company: 1. UPD practices Apartheid in the workplace. White workers earn more than African workers who do the same work.

2. The company claims there is a provident fund and is deducting money from workers for it, but it refuses to disclose details about the fund, they don’t produce annual statements and they refuse to disclose who is running the fund.

This is the same with the medical aid. The employer deducts monies for Medical aid, but they don’t provide information on who the service provider is, or the employers contributions. UPD claims these deductions are legal, but there is nothing to support that claim.

3. We demand a 15% wage increase across the board because UPD pays poverty wages. The lowest earning workers earn R3000 per month. We demand that the management team at UPD must engage meaningfully with these demands, instead of attempting to bully our members into submission through violence and court interdicts.

We are asking ourselves why are they hiding details of the Provident Fund?

What kind of corruption is taking place at the company that would justify withholding information of the Provident Fund administrators? Why won’t they disclose information on the medical Aid contributions? Until we receive answers to these and other pertinent questions, the strike will continue.

We welcome the decision of the Labour Court which dismissed the company’s attempts to interdict the strike. The court and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration also clarified the picketing rules so that UPD has no justification for shooting at unarmed workers who are merely exercising their right to strike.

We salute our members and the courageous workers at UPD who are standing up for their rights and fighting for a better life for their families. You are the true heroes of the struggle. NUMSA will continue to do all it can to fight for you and defend you in this battle. No retreat, no surrender!’

Unions fear Nampak restructuring project will result in massive job losses

Meanwhile, leading packaging company Nampak is undergoing a ‘group restructuring project’ that organised labour fears will result in massive job losses as the plan revolves around the company expanding its business outside the country. 

The company has employed the services of discredited consulting firm Bain & Company for the restructuring. Bain has been at the centre of questionable restructuring exercises, especially at the SA Revenue Service (Sars), which led to its managing partner Vittorio Massone stepping down from day-to-day operations after revealing at the Nugent Commission of Inquiry that he had met axed Sars commissioner Tom Moyane to discuss the institution a year before Moyane became commissioner.

For Massone’s trouble, Bain was suspended with immediate effect by Business Leadership SA (BLSA). In a memorandum signed on behalf of all unions represented at Nampak by National Union of Metalworkers of SA general secretary Irvin Jim, several damning allegations were made. 

The unions demanded that ‘in the absence of any agreement with labour, the company refrain from further disposals, transfers or closures of any part of its current business, including but not limited to Megapak and Nampak Glass’. 

They insisted that ‘labour is not prepared to sit by and accept this gradual eradication of jobs in South Africa’, and that the company’s chief executive, Andre de Ruyter, be replaced. The memorandum alleged racist practices were undertaken at the company, and said the workforce had appropriate skills.

‘Management continues to blame underperformance on a lack of skills,’ it said. 

‘However, workers, in actual fact, have the skills. ‘They have applied these skills to deliver expected performance historically at different times. ‘In fact workers believe the skills gap exists at the management level.’

The workers accused company executive Christiaan Burmeister, who was recently promoted, and to whom a black executive, William Mkhabela, reported, of incompetence.  ‘Managers are not held accountable for underperformance,’ the memorandum read.

In it, Burmeister was accused of ‘destroying’ a division he previously worked for.

When these allegations were put to him, De Ruyter charged that the memorandum contained ‘a number of allegations from unattributed sources which are inaccurate, spurious and potentially libellous’. 

‘It is not, and never has been, Nampak’s policy nor practice to embark on restructuring plans which impact unionised employees without appropriate union consultation in accordance with our obligations under law,’ he said.  But the workers wanted to know why De Ruyter was holding talks with Bain, ‘which has destroyed Sars, instead of talking to us’.

On Bain, De Ruyter said: ‘If and when the company employs advisors for a variety of reasons, the choice is made with considered due diligence and in line with good corporate governance. ‘Employees are aware that if they have queries relating to the financial results of the company, they are free to raise these with management through appropriate channels,’ he added.

In a statement announcing it was taking steps to suspend Bain, the BLSA said it was being done in line with its ‘anti-corruption oath’. The unions also demanded that Nampak ‘provides clarity concerning all external consulting companies, past and present, that are reviewing Nampak operations’.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has threatened that its members will down tools should the SABC fail to address their concerns over proposed retrenchments by tomorrow, Friday, November 16. ‘We will give you (SABC) a 48-hour strike notice, and shutdown the broadcaster,’ said general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala.

Workers picketed outside SABC offices across the country last Friday, with the main activities held at the head offices in Auckland Park, where a memorandum of demands was handed to the group CEO Madoda Mxakwe. The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union (BEMAWU) has accused the SABC of placing profits before the well-being of workers.

‘We ask that government fully fund the SABC so that it executes its mandate… and that proper revenue streams be investigated in order to increase the revenue of the broadcaster,’ said BEMAWU president Hannes du Buisson. The union also demanded that the SABC withdraw a threat allegedly aimed at workers who participated in last Friday’s picket.

CWU’s Tshabalala addressed the issue in front of group CEO Mxakwe, before workers dispersed and said ‘the matter has been addressed and none of you will be blamed for your presence here’.