A one-day, nationwide strike is being planned by South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) members on 22 December…

Cosatu is fully in support of the strike, and will be holding various “marches and protests in various towns all across the country on the same day,” according to a statement from the union.

The workers are demanding safe transport for night-shift staff. They are also demanding a guaranteed number of minimum hours for part-time workers, and an immediate end to the reduction of working hours for part-time workers.

According to reports, the protest will affect normal shopping at the stores.

The strike is expected to be supported by more than 30 000 SACCAWU members working for Shoprite Checkers.

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The full statement is below:

SACCAWU MEDIA STATEMENT REGARDING THE SHOPRITE CHECKERS LIMITED DURATION STRIKE ACTION SACCAWU (the Union) and Shoprite Checkers (the Company) are in a dispute arising from the Company’s unilateral change to working conditions.

The dispute dates back to 2015 when the Company engaged in a process that not only changed the conditions of employment but practically undermined the decent jobs agenda and job security. Shoprite Checkers decided to change its operational patters, which is their prerogative and within their rights. However, where such changes affect workers, the Company is obliged to engage the Union, and this they did not do. The change trading patterns means trading beyond normal trading hours and further into the traditional rest periods. The Company argues that since the number of working hours does not change, they are entitled to impose new working arrangements, hence using the gangster and bullyboy tactics of forcing their way. The company believes there is nothing wrong for workers to report for work in the very early hours of the morning or knock off late, with no safe and reliable transport arranged for them by the company.

The dispute was referred to the CCMA and accordingly adjudicated, which the outcome issued in October to the effect that the matter remained unresolved thus the Union is entitled to go on strike if it so wishes. Since October, we tried to get the company to reverse the unilateral changes, to no avail. True to the tendency of capital, Shoprite Checkers has remained stubborn, to a point where it went on an offensive against workers. As a result, the Union has no option but to support and action the decision of members to engage in a limited strike action on 22 December 2017. The company has been duly notified.

Many workers have since become victims of robbery and violent crimes whilst on the way to or from work and the Company has flatly refused to take responsibility. The following incidents immediately come to mind:

  • Two workers in Makhado area had to resort to requesting hikes, for lack of transport after work; and the female was robbed and badly injured whilst the male was shot dead.
  • A female worker in Dube was gang-raped on the way from work, A female worker from Protea Glen was gang-raped, also on the way from work, A female worker waiting for taxi/transport around 04h00 in Durban was robbed by two thugs. One of the robbers ran off and the other remained holding her at knifepoint and tried to rape her. The female fought back and in the process the thug was killed. Charges against the woman worker were dropped as same was declared self-defense.
  • A worker in Botshabelo had to walk in an unsafe veld on the way from work, since there was no transport, and she was killed.
  • Workers in Sandton were forced to work in a manner that is different from what has been the case for years and when they challenged such imposition and unilateralism, the Company decided that such workers deserved to be dismissed, possibly to make a statement and intimidate others into submission.

The Union believes that is irresponsible, selfish and inconsiderate of the company to force workers into situation that expose them to high levels of vulnerability. Management continue to reap the rewards of increased sales whilst shareholders enjoy huge dividends at the expense of the safety and wellbeing of workers.

In fact, it is no wonder that Christoffel Wiese, who is a one of the key shareholders in Shoprite (owns about 18% and votes 43%) if the attitude of Shoprite is anything to go by. The shenanigans unfolding in Steinhoff saw Mr. Wiese being all over the show over a short period of time sold shares to the value of R2.15billion. He has also pushed through the sale of some R98million worth of Steinhoff shares, which led to the intended sale of a Shoprite portion to Steinhoff. The FSB has taken an interest in this transaction and will hopefully investigate it.

Shoprite Checkers management continue to undermine the decent work agenda and programmes aimed at eliminating poverty, unemployment and inequality. The revelations of a corruption scandal involving the former Steinhof CEO raises serious questions about Mr. Wiese’s business practices.

The fact that at the time of the scandal, plans were afoot for Steinhoff to acquire a sizeable stake in Shoprite in order to create a super-retailer, should be a cause for concern as it represents economic gangsterism and disregard of business fundamentals including human resources. Clearly Mr. Wiese would do whatever it takes “to win”, as he recently declared in a 702 interview that: I was never cut out to be a Number 2 man I do not get involved in businesses that I do not control”
Such attitude and transactions place workers at a risk of losing out and become sacrificial lambs, condemned to the ever-increasing pool of joblessness and swelling the ranks of the unemployed.

Shoprite claims in its 2017 Report that:

“Shoprite however remains dedicated to transformation and we will endeavour to maintain our strong commitment to sustainability and broadening of the formal economy.

We continued to increase black representation in the Group and we are proud to be the largest private sector employer. Our commitment towards developing skills has increased significantly, as we strongly feel that education is a key element to changing people’s lives.”

The same Annual Report further claims:

“Shoprite’s employer value proposition is Be More because we understand that our success is built on hard work, passion and skills of our people. We lead the sector in providing training opportunities for our employees and those looking to enter the retail sector.”

These sweet words ring hollow when we consider the following facts:

Whilst the Company claims to be the largest private sector employer in the country:
a. A rough estimate of about 80% of its employees are in precarious part-time jobs with no guaranteed minimum number of hours per month;
b. They disregard the Code of Good Practice on Arrangement of working time in designing and arranging shifts that disadvantage workers;
c. They unilaterally change working hours of employees without any consultation;
d. They have failed and continue to flatly refuse to provide safe and reliable transport
for workers locked into late trading shift arrangements;
e. Their approach to Executive pay only serves to widen income inequalities;
f. They acknowledge that the turnover for part-time workers is very high and was at
55,46% at the end of 2015 slightly declining to 55,22% at the end of 2016;
g. They have since unilaterally reduced the number of working hours for part-time
workers and thus reducing their income;
h. They dismissed more than 20 workers at Checkers Sandton for standing up and
protesting against unilateral changes to their shifts and working hours.
i. They have resorted to threatening workers with reduction of their working hours for
exercising their constitutionally protected right to withdraw their labour

As a consequence of the aforegoing, the Union will be making demands that will address the unilateral changes to working hours and the plight of the dismissed Checkers Sandton 23 (who were dismissed for protesting against unilateral changes to their working hours).

The Union will further sharply raise the issue of safe and reliable transport for workers who work very early and late shifts; the spiteful and punitive reduction of working hours of part- time workers as well as the need to secure guaranteed minimum working hours for part- time workers.

Should the company fail to respond favourably, the Union may be forced to embark upon further action in support of our demands.