Aspen workers vow to extend, expand strike

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An ongoing strike involving workers at pharmaceutical giant Aspen Pharmacare’s production facilities in Nelson Mandela Bay concluded its first week on Friday, with workers and their unions vowing not only to continue their strike, but to also extend it to the company’s production facilities in East London.Among the production lines affected, according to a union spokesperson, are lines producing antiretroviral medication.Speaking from East London on Friday, the regional co-ordinator for the Cosatu-affiliated Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union (Ceppwawu), Karools Adams, said workers at the East London facility had served Aspen with a notice to strike and that workers at both the Port Elizabeth and East London facilities would be on strike simultaneously on Monday.“There are around 300 employees in East London. This will bring the total number of workers on strike at both plants to around 1,000 workers,” Adams said.He confirmed that workers were unhappy with the way in which the company was implementing its shifts, particularly over weekends and during times when it wanted to in-crease production to meet demand.While Adams admitted that some of the workers’ concerns involved their pay, he insisted the strike had more to do with a new shift regime implemented by the company.“Another union is also considering joining this strike.“We are also considering taking other actions such as staging a march in Port Elizabeth next week.“We feel that the management has been arrogant towards our concerns and we have even tabled other alternatives for the company to consider, but these are being rejected,” Adams said.“We intend continuing the strike.”Striking employees in Port Elizabeth, however, told Weekend Post that many of their concerns related to reduced income as a result of the shift changes.Outside the factory, an irate Jean Skosana, 61, showed Weekend Post her latest wage payment, which reflected a sum of R312,46.“I am supposed to be earning R2,800. I am also expected to retire in a few years. How can I live off this amount, and what do you think this amount is going to help my pension fund when I retire?” she asked.Other workers complained that the new shift regime was not consistent with their employment contracts.Aspen spokesperson Shauneen Beukes said earlier that the company’s policy was not to comment on internal matters affecting the company.

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