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Unions threaten PIC, Woolworths on Israel trade

| Crime and security

Six trade unions on Wednesday threatened to flex their muscles in the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) if Woolworths does not end its trade with Israel.

The unions included education and health workers’ union Nehawu, teachers’ union Sadtu, police and prison civil rights union Popcru, communication workers’ union CWU, the newly formed metalworkers union Limusa and Saccawu, one Cosatu's biggest affiliates in the food and retail industry.

“If Woolworths does not end relations with Apartheid Israel and Israeli companies then we will lobby (via the GEPF, UIF and through other avenues that we have representation) for the PIC to divest from Woolworths because of its involvement with Israeli companies in general and Israeli agricultural companies in particular,” the unions said.

Sadtu’s head of secretariat Xolani Fakude told Fin24 that the unions put forward a resolution at Cosatu’s national congress currently underway in Midrand, Johannesburg.

“Hopefully we will see 18 unions moving in this direction if it is adopted,” he said. “We feel that the PIC has our money, our pension funds.”

The PIC is one of Woolworths’ largest institutional shareholders and currently holds a 16.4% stake in the company, according to Woolworths' Annual Financial Statements for the year ended 30 June 2015.

The GEPF accounts for almost 90% of assets managed by the PIC, and many contributors to the fund are union members.

The unions demanded that Woolworths immediately terminate its trade links with Israel until such a time that “Israel complied with international law and ends its oppression of the Palestinian people”.

Israel has come under criticism internationally after its capture and occupation of Palestinian territories during its 1967 military campaign.

Woolworths on Wednesday said that it did not source any products from the occupied territories.

“Woolworths has no political affiliations and is guided by the South African government and the dti’s guidelines,” it told Fin24 in an emailed response.

According to Woolworths less than 0.1% of its food was sourced from the Middle East and more than 92% was sourced locally.

“We only source food from abroad when local products are out of season or where local or regional supplier partners are unable to provide the ideal quality, value and innovation that our customers expect,” the company said.

Fin24 is still awaiting comment from the PIC.

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