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Shoprite fined for defying court order

2024-04-10  Maria Sheya

Shoprite fined for defying court order

Retail giant Shoprite and its Namibia-based directors are guilty of contempt of court after they defied the Labour Court order and continued making use of “seasonal workers” while their employees were on strike in 2020. Yesterday, Judge Esi Schimming-Chase ordered Shoprite to pay N$50 000 for defying the court’s order of 8 January 2021.

The court further ordered that the company must provide N$100 000 and set up a bursary fund for its employees who are seeking educational advancement by enrolling in any work-related educational courses.

“In any application for access to such fund, the first respondent and its management are required to consider such an application, and shall treat striking and non-striking employees equally,” ordered Schimming-Chase.

In the court order that Shoprite defied, it was interdicted from hiring “seasonal staff” or “fixed-term” employees for the purpose of performing, in whole or in part, the work of the employees who embarked on a strike as from 23 December 2020 onwards for the duration of the strike.

It was prohibited from allowing any of its employees, including managerial and/or trainee manager employees, to do the work of an employee who embarked on a strike.

While employees were on strike, Shoprite employed 390 “fixed-term” workers as replacements for those who went on strike.

In December 2020, a total of 2 042 Shoprite workers went on strike after they could not reach an agreement for better pay and benefits with their employer.

At the time, the workers were demanding a salary increment of N$600, a housing allowance of N$450, a transport allowance of N$500, and permanent employment for workers who have worked in the stores for over a year temporarily.

Documents filed before the court showed that most of the employees are employed temporarily for extended periods ranging up to more than 10 years. These temporary workers were being paid between N$300 and N$400 per week. 

This amounts to a monthly salary of between N$1 200 and N$1 600 on a five-day work basis. The permanent workers were paid between N$2 000 and N$3 000 per month. The employees did not receive a transportation allowance, nor was transportation provided by the company. They were also not receiving any benefits, such as housing allowance or medical aid.

In January 2021, the strike came to an end after the workers and Shoprite reached an agreement. However, they continued to be embroiled in legal battles that went up to the Supreme Court.

Speaking to New Era yesterday after the ruling, the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau)'s general secretary Jacob Penda said the union welcomes the ruling. 

“This ruling teaches us that it is important for companies and unions to resolve things amicably, and not turn to the courts. At the end of the day, no one wins,” he said.

On the N$50 000 fine, Penda said he believes that the court being an independent body of the State considered all the evidence presented before it by the parties. He, however, said they are yet to discuss matters surrounding the bursary fund that the court ordered Shoprite to set up.

“I believe if this is handled well, it will bear fruits for years to come,” he said.

2024-04-10  Maria Sheya

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