Staff Reporter Windhoek-Local labour expert and activist Herbert Jauch has written to poverty eradication minister Zephania Kameeta to ask the ministry to stop procuring any goods from Shoprite-Checkers Group of Companies because of its alleged exploitative labour practices. He called on Kameeta to publicly express his support for the Shoprite workers and to announce that the ministry he heads will not make any further purchases from the Shoprite-Checkers group until disciplinary charges against over 100 workers have been dropped. “This must include purchases for the food bank,” he implored. He further called on Kameeta and his labour counterpart Erkki Nghimtina to raise the Shoprite issue at Cabinet level with a view of passing a Cabinet resolution that all ministries must cease purchases from Shoprite until the company drops the charges against its workers. “For two years, over 100 workers at Shoprite in Windhoek have been facing disciplinary charges for taking part in a strike in 2015. Shoprite has already dismissed 176 workers in Rundu and Gobabis and the company’s continued violations of workers’ rights must be brought to an end,” said Jauch in a letter addressed for publication. The strikes in 2014 and 2015 were the direct result of Shoprite’s unfair and discriminatory labour practices, charged Jauch. He added that the workers who are now facing disciplinary action deserve to be supported fully in their fight to keep their jobs. Shoprite’s unfair labour practices were on display recently in Oshakati where the labour court found that two employees had been dismissed unfairly and ordered their reinstatement. “It seems that Shoprite is even reluctant to follow the court ruling and this shows once again the arrogance and impunity with which this company operates,” said Jauch. Shoprite’s alleged refusal to adhere to fair labour practices as ordered by the ministry of labour showcases the company’s arrogance and reluctance to comply with national laws, the labour expert and former unionist said. “Shoprite simply displays the arrogance of wealth and power in their dealings with workers, trade unions and even the government of the Republic of Namibia,” said Jauch. There are a number of workers’ rights violations that are entrenched in the way Shoprite operates in Namibia, he stressed. He pointed out that Shoprite employs what they call permanent part-timers or PPTs. These, he explained, are workers who are permanently employed on a part-time basis. Their contracts provide for maximum of 45 working hours per week, which is equivalent to the standard working hours for permanent employees, he further said. “The employment of PPTs was the subject of an investigation by the ministry of labour, which in its report dated 13 August 2015 made a number of findings and recommendations,” he added further. Furthermore, he said the investigation found that a practice of “segregated employment” exists at Shoprite and Checkers retailers and that workers on part-time contracts received far lower pay than permanent workers in the same job category. In addition, the contracts of these two groups of workers are not comparable and the ministry recommended that the employment contracts be reviewed to remove any provision, definition, references or qualifying criterion that render the employment conditions of one employment category less favourable than the other, said Jauch. “The ministry stated that the employment contracts of the two employment categories should be harmonised and be brought squarely into the ambit of the Labour Act,” he said. Furthermore, Shoprite was told that it needs to provide sound justifications for employing workers on fixed-term contracts, otherwise they need to be permanently employed as stipulated in the Labour Amendment Act of 2012, added Jauch. However, it is not clear whether Shoprite has accepted and acted on any of those recommendations. Shoprite workers earn very low wages and the increases given locked them into being part of the “working poor”. Workers in the salary ranges of N$1530 to N$1710 allegedly received an increase of between N$190 and N$206. Thus the average salary increase was just around N$200 per month, explained Jauch. The PPTs received even less, he added. “They are paid on a weekly basis and received [between] N$345 and N$462 per week. Their increases translated in an additional N$27 and N$37. Thus many Shoprite workers continue to receive wages of less than N$2000 per month and are part of the working poor,” said Jauch. Decisions concerning the workers’ wages and employment conditions are taken in South Africa. Shoprite Namibia does not comply with the requirements of the Namibian Labour Act, in particular not when it comes to the obligation of collective bargaining and the duty to bargain in good faith.
2017-10-05 09:07:54 11 months ago