Foschni employees’ demands unreasonable
Workers of retail clothing store Foschini this week went on nationwide strike as they demanded a N$480 salary increment of which N$280 is a housing allowance.
The workers went on strike on Sunday after wage negotiations between their employer and the Namibian Wholesale and Retail Workers Union (NWRWU) reached a deadlock.
The Foschini Group Human Resources Executive: Employee Relations, Karde Buys, on Monday confirmed the Foschini Group had been given notice that its Namibian store staff had voted in favour of strike action.
She said the group was very disappointed with the decision as Foschini always had a good relationship with the union and had negotiated with it in good faith over many years.
She said every effort had been made to achieve conciliation and prevent possible industrial action.
“It is very unfortunate that we were unable to reach consensus with the union over the proposed annual increases. We have been negotiating since March this year and have done everything in our power to avoid a dispute.
We believe the proposed monthly increase, backdated to 1 April, is very reasonable and fair. In addition we have made a very significant move to increase our minimum wage.
The current wage offer would see 75 % of our store employees receiving an increase between 10 and 20 %.This is well ahead of inflation, higher than last year’s salary increases and the highest offer in Retail in Namibia in 2013.
Buys said the Foschini Group’s approach has always been to pay an equitable increase which is above inflation, irrespective of retail’s cyclical performance.
It also provided staff with numerous other benefits, including religious, study, sport as well as maternity and paternity leave and pension fund with free funeral, death and disability cover.
For the past four years it had offered one of the most advanced free HIV testing and treatment benefits.
In a statement released by the Foschini Group on Thursday, CEO Doug Murray said the group was very disappointed that despite all efforts and an above average wage offer, NWRWU members had decided to strike.
“Although NWRWU only represents a minority of our employees, TFG has always been prepared to engage in talks with them in the interest of good relationships. We will continue to engage with them in order to settle the strike as soon as possible with the best interests of the workers at heart.”
“We will certainly not use so-called scab labour in the place of the striking workers. We have hired our usual contract workers as we would do in the normal line of business and where we have new stores opening, recruitment activities for these stores continue.
I can also confirm that we have put all recruitment of our sales and floor staff in our existing stores on hold for the near future.”
Buys said the worker’s current salary increase demand was “unreasonable given current inflation rates as well as competitor salaries”.
The group agreed to an increase of N$310 per month, in which they deem as very reasonable and fair, and have increased the minimum wage to N$3000.
The strikers have resorted to violence and intimidation of both customers and workers.
Some stores in Oshakati, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Otjiwarongo had to close because of intimidation and violence and the police had to step in.
Buys added that the Namibian employees have numerous additional benefits including paternity leave, educational assistance, a year-end gift, and free HIV testing and treatment.
The Foschini Group’s Namibian subsidiary employs over 400 people.