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The majority union at Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane plant has reached an agreement with management that workers will return to work on Wednesday to assist in cleaning up operations.

Parent company Tiger Brands shut down operations at its Enterprise Foods’ manufacturing plants in Polokwane and Germiston on Sunday following an announcement by the department of health that the Limpopo plant had been identified as the source of the listeriosis outbreak in the country.

Tiger Brands also recalled all products manufactured at the two plants.

Listeriosis has killed 180 people since it was identified early last year.

Earlier in the day‚ the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) said all workers were instructed to take leave as from Tuesday (March 6).

On Tuesday evening‚ Nupsaw general secretary Success Mataitsane said the union – which represents 400 of the 450 workers at the plant – reached an agreement with management that workers would not be put on leave any longer‚ but would return to work.

“From tomorrow (Wednesday) all the workers will be utilised for cleaning activities at the plant‚” Mataitsane said.

Mataitsane said the union was also negotiating with management to “insource” the services of cleaners for better control and training.

“Currently‚ they are contracted from labour brokers who are always bringing in new cleaners without any experience‚” Mataitsane said.

Nupsaw stated earlier on Wednesday that at the meeting it also planned to discuss concerns not only about the risk of listeriosis infection at the plant but also about the hazards imposed by leaking ammonia which workers were complaining about.

“The union confronted Enterprise Foods on February 19 on the effect of leaked ammonia which the workers were complaining about and which had affected more than 22 employees while they were at work on same date and who were admitted to hospital and shamefully treated as if they were under the influence of alcohol.

“NUPSAW requested from Polokwane Enterprise management for health and safety reports and risk assessments on the ammonia chemical of which no reply was received up to now‚” it stated.

There was no word after the meeting about these concerns or whether anything had been decided to address the issues.

Patrick Sithole‚ Chief Supply Chain Officer at Tiger Brands‚ said on Monday that the company had not picked up any employees that had been affected or who reported that they had any listeriosis symptoms at its two plants.

“Part of the work that we will be doing before we open any of the factories … is that we are going to have to systematically go through a check of any of those or any symptoms that have been picked up‚” Sithole said at a media briefing on Monday.

At a media briefing on Monday‚ Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall said following the identification of the listeria strain at the Limpopo plant‚ the company would continue undertaking enhanced deep cleaning protocols in all its facilities.

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