Shoprite maintains strike was illegal in lingering labour dispute
Herbert Jauch, Chairperson of the Economic & Social Justice Trust has taken up the plight of the 176 Shoprite workers who were dismissed in Rundu and Gobabis and the 100 workers in Windhoek who have been facing disciplinary charges for taking part in a strike in 2015.
Jauch explained in a statement that workers submitted their wage proposal to the Shoprite management but were ignored. In the light of Shoprite’s refusal to bargain at all and angered by the company’s decision to unilaterally impose increases, workers decided to go on strike on 28 and 29 July 2015.
Shoprite, in turn, stated this week that the strike was illegal and that the company is not operating outside the law of Namibia.
Jauch stated that after the strike, Shoprite decided to lodge disciplinary proceeding against those workers who participated in the strike but the company acted without consistency as several of the workers in Windhoek had the disciplinary charges against them withdrawn at the commencement of the hearing. “Others in Rundu and Gobabis were simply dismissed and only the workers in Windhoek were permitted to obtain legal representation and Shoprite provided no explanation or justification for the disparate treatment,” he said.
He said there are a number of worker’s rights violations that are entrenched in the way Shoprite operates in Namibia which included the fact that it does not have a formal internal grievance procedure or disciplinary code, which allows Shoprite to do what it wants to when it comes to discipline matter and their preferred tactic seems to be handing out written and final written warnings for any and all offenses, without any kind of hearing being provided.
He also emphasized that Shoprite employs Permanent Part-Timers (PPTs), which are workers who are permanent on part time and their contracts provide for maximum of 45 working hours per week, which is equivalent to the standard working hours of permanent employees.
“Shoprite workers earn very low wages and the increases given locked them into being part of the ‘working poor’, workers salary ranges of N$1530 to N$1710 received an increase of N$190 to N$206. Thus the average salary increase was just around N$200 per month and the PPTs received even less and are paid on a weekly basis and received N$345 to N$462 per week, making their increases translated in an additional N$27 to N$37” he added.
According to Jauch, Shoprite made a turnover of just over N$130 billion in 2016 and the then CEO got a bonus of N$50 million and a basic salary per year of N$49.7 million. “Shoprite workers create this wealth but they are denied the opportunity to share it and it would take a worker at Shoprite about 133 years to make what the CEO makes in a month and instead of engaging the workers on their demands for better wages, transport allowance and medical aid, Shoprite chose to take disciplinary action,” he exclaimed.
In response, Karen Smith, the Divisional HR Manager for Shoprite Group Namibia stated that the strikes of 28 and 29 July 2015 were declared illegal and unlawful in the Labour Court and that they do have all relevant documents necessary within their company.
“The Relevant case (SR Rundu) have been referred to the Office of the Labour Commissioners and went to arbitration whereby our decision was upheld by the Labour Commissioners Office” she stated.