During the last seven years Winnie was working at the Pick n Pay bakery. As many other workers in South Africa, she was not employed directly by Pick n Pay, but under contract from different labour brokers. After stepping up for her rights as an employee she lost her job at the bakery. The Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), a Solidar Suisse partner organisation, is at her side to defend her rights. This is her story.
«I was born in a small town in the far East Rand side, in a township called KwaThema. That’s where I grew up and where I still live today. My siblings were five, I was the 6th and last child. It was okay, even though we never had the privilege of having everything, because my mother was a single parent raising us and she was a domestic worker… »
«In 2003 I started to study electrical engineering. Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue my studies due to the fact that there were complications with my public funding. So, I ended up having to drop out. Then, in 2005 I had my child and I was not able to go back to school.»
Working at the bakery
«4 years after the birth of my child, my sister who was a manager, at the time with Pick n Pay, managed to get me a job at the bakery via a labour broker. There were a lot of strict hygiene rules with the food and I had to lift heavy bags up to 25 kg. But, on the other hand, I obviously enjoyed because you spend most of your time there and enjoy people’s company, talking to people. It was very loud… it wasn’t sort of office-like-strict, so you could sing your songs and no one would say ‘oh no’… it was a flexible environment in that sense but other than that, you had to adhere to a lot of things.»
Standing up for our rights
«Many of my colleagues were employed via the labour broking companies and we realized that we did not have the same rights as the permanent employees of Pick n Pay and that we couldn't place our grievances. So we decided to organize a march on the 7th of September 2016 to the Pick n Pay headquarters to hand in our memorandum and our grievances. When we got there, I was one of the people who was talking to the media and, shortly after, I was fired.»
The help of CWAO
«The Advice Office has helped us a lot in terms of, firstly, education. Because, remember, we never knew our rights as workers, our basic rights as employees and all that. The Advice Office helps us with the workshops that they do twice a month and they also help us referring the cases to the Court. I could not have afforded the legal advice without them.»
South Africa has seen a steady increase of casual labourers, contract workers and others working in the informal sector over the last years. Solidar Suisse supports CWAO because of its effective work and the close ties to the informal workers in South Africa.