The Ashton community in the Western Cape was recently in crisis over the future of the Langeberg and Ashton Foods ‘canning’ factory. More than 4,000 seasonal workers and about 250 permanent workers faced possible job losses after Tiger Brands announced in June that it would close the factory. The factory provides jobs and is a vital source of income in a community plagued by very high unemployment. Tiger Brands has been trying to find a buyer with enough money to buy the factory for the past two years.
The Western Cape Rural Women’s Assembly, CSAAWU and Mawubuye Land Rights Forum hosted a dialogue with affected factory workers and seasonal farm workers to discuss how the closure of the factory would affect women. Seasonal workers depend on work from the factory for about six months of the year. “The women were sad to hear that the factory might permanently close because it gave them opportunity to be financially independent” explains Sheriff Ramaobi of the Rural Women’s Assembly.
There was also a fear that Gender-Based violence might increase as poverty is one of the contributors to Gender-Based violence. Many of the women feared that they would not be able to find other work given the high rate of unemployment in the area. “This uncertainty brought out many emotions for the women since they fear that their children might be forced to drop out of school to help support their moms with providing an income for the household.” adds Ramaobi.
But in July, Tiger Brands announced that the factory would remain open for at least one more season. “People are happy that the factory is open for another season but they are still very worried.” says Denia Jansen from the Mawubuye Land Rights Forum.
Jansen encouraged unions and workers to stay organised and continue discussions about the future of the factory, “Things could change drastically if they still decide to close the factory. She warns that, “there is no alternative for other work in the area. The campaign should be led by unions, because these are their members and they are responsible to protect the right of workers.”