Avocado and macadamia producer Westfalia last week obtained an urgent interdict prohibiting a group of employees from blocking access to a Westfalia nursery facility in Tzaneen, Limpopo Province.
The Johannesburg Labour Court has declared it an illegal strike, the company says, and a number of the striking workers have since committed to return to work.
In its official response Westfalia states: “This situation has stabilised and operations are continuing without interruption. We will do our utmost to ensure the safety of those who do so.”
A South African Police Service vehicle outside Westfalia Fruit Estate, Modjadjiskloof, earlier this week
The cause for the labour dispute remains unclear. Westfalia strongly denies local media reports quoting salary deductions and salary slip alterations ahead of an audit, calling it “lack[ing] any factual basis and […] completely unsubstantiated”.
“Striking employees who ignored the interdict, intimidated non-striking employees in a threatening and violent manner and some non-striking employees were physically and verbally assaulted. In the ensuing events, three people suffered minor injuries and received treatment at a local health facility before being discharged,” the company says in its statement to FreshPlaza.
A road blocked by protestors earlier this week outside Westfalia Fruit Estate; Westfalia has obtained an urgent interdict against the illegal strike
According to Desmond Mathole, head of the Mopani District labour desk of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), two injured employees are still in the nearby Kgapane Hospital while one has been discharged.
The EFF is a political party, not a labour union, and has no legal status as an employee representative. Mathole says that the protesting employees have since joined the Professional Transport and Allied Workers Union (PTAWU).
Westfalia states that it continues its engagement with employees via official company processes and according to accepted labour relations guidelines.
The illegal strike action at the same facility in March 2023 was, according to Westfalia, unrelated to the current protest.