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Home / Pressure mounts on Shoprite… overwhelming show of solidarity with striking workers

Pressure mounts on Shoprite… overwhelming show of solidarity with striking workers

2021-01-21  Maria Amakali

Pressure mounts on Shoprite… overwhelming show of solidarity with striking workers
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Workers at the retail chain stores of Shoprite, Checkers and Usave have received overwhelming support from government, political parties as well as labour unions as nearly 2 000 workers continue with strike action over better pay. 

The pressure is mounting from all corners for Shoprite Namibia to adhere to Namibian labour laws and accede to the striker’s demands.   The workers now have backing from Student Union of Namibia (SUN), Swapo in Oshana region, National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) and government through the ministry of labour, who are all supporting calls for members of the public to boycott outlets owned by Shoprite Namibia until such time the labour dispute is resolved. 

“By now, it is public knowledge that the union has been asking the public and other consumers not to buy from Shoprite and its subsidiaries until the dispute is dissolved. The ministry supports this position,” said labour minister Utoni Nujoma in a statement on Tuesday. 
Nujoma said the current strike is important, as it has caused the public to question if the country’s labour relations system is fair. 
He further acknowledged the Shoprite workers are poorly paid compared to the average salary paid in the country, which is between N$6 759 and N$4 169 monthly pay for employees within the retail and wholesale trade. 

Shoprite and its workers who are represented by Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) are at loggerheads after the company took a stand on its position that they will only offer the workers an increment between 5% and 10%, without any added benefits. 
The workers have been demanding a salary increment of N$600, a housing allowance of N$450 and a transport allowance of N$500. 
Full-time workers of Shoprite earn between N$1 200 and N$1 600 on a five-day work basis.  The permanent workers are paid between N$2 000 and N$3 000 per month.  The employees do not receive transport allowance nor is transport provided by the company.  
They also do not receive any benefits such as housing allowance or medical aid. 

Yesterday, the workers marched to the Office of the Prime Minister to hand over a petition demanding government to force Shoprite to respect the country’s laws or close shop and leave the country. Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila delegated Matheus Kaholongo, a senior official in her office to receive the petition on her behalf. 

Handing over the petition, Nafau representative Wilhelm Absalom called on government to have the best interest at heart when entering into business agreements or receiving investors into the country. 

He said it is government’s responsibility to evaluate the wages and benefits that these companies will be giving to their employees. “Because people are coming here and pay their employees N$300. These companies are not really creating employment; they are just creating poverty by giving their employees low wages of N$1 200. At the end of the day, that person will use N$700 for taxi to go to work. They will only be left with N$500. Who can survive on N$500?” questioned Absalom. 

The workers also handed over a petition to the Namibian police, which was received by Khomas commander Commissioner Joseph Shikongo. 
Handing over the petition, Tunapu John informed the police that the workers and Nafau strongly condemned the use of force against unarmed and peaceful demonstrators. 

“The police are only protecting Shoprite. They have been displayed at all their shops as if they are employed by Shoprite. Remember, Shoprite workers are Namibians and we, the electorate, did not vote you into power so you can protect foreign capitalist,” he said.  
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe called on the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. 

“At this point in time, the economy needs to protect jobs at all cost. Hence, it is important that Nafau and Shoprite facilitate discussions in a fashion aimed at ending the industrial action in a manner mutually beneficial for both parties,” said Ngaringombe. -

2021-01-21  Maria Amakali

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