• April 25th, 2019
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The open letter to Kameeta

Columns, Comment
Columns, Comment

This is the open letter that Herbert Jauch, the chairperson of the Economic and Social Justice Trust, wrote to the Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare this week. It is published here verbatim. The Honorable Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare Dr Zephania Kameeta Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare Windhoek Namibia Honorable Minster Dr Kameeta Re: Open letter to sanction Shoprite The Shoprite-Checkers group of companies has been operating in Namibia for many years and just like in other countries of the Southern African region, its operations have been characterised by very poor and highly exploitative labour practices. 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. We wish to point out that the strikes in 2014 and 2015 were the direct result of Shoprite’s unfair and discriminatory labour practices. The workers who are now facing disciplinary action deserve our full support in their fight to keep their jobs. Shoprite’s unfair labour practices were also shown recently in Oshakati where the Labour Court found that 2 employees had been dismissed unfairly and thus ordered 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. As pointed out recently by your colleague, the Hon Minster of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, Shoprite’s refusal to adhere to fair labour practices and its refusal to follow directives have become characteristics of the company’s operations. 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. There are a number of workers’ rights violations that are entrenched in the way Shoprite operates in Namibia. Below are some of those that became apparent in the course of the disciplinary proceedings. 1.Shoprite employs what they call Permanent Part-Timers or PPTs. These are workers who are permanently on part time. Their contracts provide for maximum of 45 working hours per week, which is equivalent to the standard working hours for permanent employees. 2. 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. The investigation found that a practice of “segregated employment” exists at Shoprite/Checkers retailers and that workers on part-time contracts receive far lower pay than permanent workers in the same job category. The contracts of these 2 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 renders the employment conditions of one employment category less favourable than the other. 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. 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. It is not clear whether Shoprite has accepted and acted on any of those recommendations. 3. Shoprite does not have a formal internal grievance procedure or disciplinary code. This has allowed Shoprite to essentially do what it wants to when it comes to discipline matters. The preferred tactic seems to be handing out written and final written warnings for any and all offences, without any kind of hearing being provided. The chaotic and arbitrary nature of Shoprite’s disciplining methods reached the stage where one of the branch manages felt compelled to send out an email to branch managers, reminding them that “short-timing” (deducting the time an employee was late from his pay), cannot be done without disciplinary action. 4. 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$1710 received an increase of N$ 190 – 206. Thus the average salary increase was just around N$ 200 per month. The PPTs received even less. They are paid on a weekly basis and were received N$ 345 – 462 per week. Their increases translated in an additional N$ 27 – 37. Thus many Shoprite workers continue to receive wages of less than N$ 2000 per month and are part of the “working poor”. 5. 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. 6. Workers experience many incidents of improper treatment by management. These range from insulting employees in front of customers, being given the worst shifts, not being promoted (either from part-time to permanent or upward) to being subjected to tribalism. With no grievance procedure in place, the employees have no way to address these grievances. In the light of these continuous and ongoing violations of workers’ rights, we believe that a strong signal needs to be sent to Shoprite that Namibia is an independent country and that our laws and rules must be followed by all. Despite having received hundreds of signed petitions and despite repeated demonstrations, Shoprite has refused to drop the charges and to enter a new era of labour relations. The company believes that it is untouchable and that public opinion as well as the views of government simply do not matter. It is therefore high time to show the company that Namibia is able and willing to act. The Economic and Social Justice Trust therefore calls on you to publicly express your support for the Shoprite workers and to announce that your Ministry will not make any further purchases from the Shoprite-Checkers group until the charges against the workers have been dropped. This must include purchases for the food bank. We also would like to ask you and the Minister of Labour to raise the Shoprite issue at Cabinet level with a view of passing a Cabinet resolution that all Ministries must cease purchases from the Shoprite group of companies until the company drops the charges against its workers. Given your personal history of supporting the cause of freedom and liberation, we rely on your support in this regard and hope that you will take a public stance against Shoprite’s labour practices. Yours in the struggle for economic and social justice Herbert Jauch Chairperson
New Era Reporter
2017-10-06 10:06:05 1 years ago

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