Aspen workers on strike

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Workers at pharmaceutical giant Aspen Pharmacare’s production facility in Port Elizabeth have downed tools over what they claim is the withdrawal of additional wage allowances for weekend and overtime work.

The employees, who said on Monday that the strike action had the support of 493 workers, embarked on their protected strike on Friday.

About 100 strikers, the majority wearing their Cosatu-affiliated Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union T-shirts, were intermittently present in a cordoned-off area near one of the company’s entrances off Harrower Road on Monday.

Security guards at the facility kept an eye on the strike action, which was peaceful.

According to one employee, who did not want to be identified, the strikers were involved in “swing shifts” or weekend work, during which employees would traditionally have been paid an additional allowance for working outside of normal weekly working hours.

“The company is in debt and they are now trying to cut costs.

“One of the ways in which they are doing this is to reduce the wages paid for swing shifts.

“So, as an example and in line with what grades employees are on, where one person was earning R1,800 a week, they are now being paid R400.”

Among the workers involved were those employed on tablet-packaging production lines, he said.

He said while he believed production was continuing, the strike was having an impact on production operations.

The union did not respond to messages or requests for comment on Monday, while striking employees refused to go on record in the absence of their strike organiser.

While confirming the strike action, Aspen spokesperson Shauneen Beukes said the company preferred not to comment on internal matters.

However, she denied allegations around the company’s financial health and pointed to Aspen’s latest Stock Exchange News Service (Sens) statement, released on Monday.