28 Jul 2015 18:00pm
CORRECTION: Story removes second-last sentence saying management of Shoprite in Katutura were not present during demonstration.
WINDHOEK, 28 JUL (NAMPA) - Workers at the chain grocers, Shoprite and Checkers, on Tuesday morning at about 09h00 staged peaceful demonstrations at various outlets across the country demanding better wages and working conditions.
Shoprite and Checkers fall under the Shoprite Holdings brand, a South African supermarket chain that operates 371 outlets in 51 countries.
About 200 workers of Shoprite in Katutura, Checkers at Maerua Mall, Shoprite in Katima Mulilo and Shoprite in Gobabis are demanding a wage increment, ranging from 10 per cent to 60 per cent depending on their salary scales; a transport allowance of N.dollars 620; a housing allowance of N.dollars 1 500; and a company medical aid contribution of 60 per cent.
Handing over a petition containing their grievances at Shoprite in Katutura to the grocers management team, the group demanded an immediate response.
Speaking on behalf of the striking workers across Namibia, a shop steward from Katutura Shoprite in Windhoek, Geicy Shilongo said: With this petition, we want to draw the attention of the management of Shoprite to increase our salaries with the rates we have stated in the petition, to give us transport allowance, housing allowance, medical aid and to allow employees to choose a union of their choice, she said.
Some of the placards the Katutura workers were carrying read; The money we make is not enough to sustain us and our families till month end. Our lives are in danger because there is no transport fee for us when we knock off late. We want you to recognise our labour union NACCAFWU.
The workers claim that they are forced to work for more than eight hours a day without an overtime fee or taxi fee, forcing them to go home late and putting them at a risk of being attacked and robbed when looking for transport.
They are further demanding that management recognise the union they have chosen, which is the Namibia Commercial, Catering Food and Allied Workers Union (NACCAFWU).
The Namibian Police Force (NamPol) was called to the Shoprite in Katima Mulilo because about 35 workers were blocking the only entrance to the shop in which only about four cashiers were in operation. Some workers showed up for the demonstration but were not in uniform and chose to sit under a tree nearby. NamPol communicated to the striking crowd that their strike is illegal as they are blocking the entrance, adding that management will communicate with them later. The shops management refused to speak to Nampa. By midday, there were still only about four cashiers in operation.
The Checkers in Windhoeks Maerua Mall was simply closed in the morning but was open and operational by midday.
NamPol was also called to the strike in Gobabis to avoid a possibly volatile situation but operations resumed as normal by midday.
Workers at the Shoprite in Walvis Bay did not participate in the strike and the manager refused to comment, adding they were not affected by the strike.
The Shoprite in Keetmanshoop that has been open for about a year and six months, was in normal operation on Tuesday afternoon, even though some workers indicated that a few wanted to strike this morning but were told off by management and an unidentified Shoprite official from Windhoek, saying striking is illegal. One worker alleged that they were informed that the police would be called in to arrest them and they would get fired if they went ahead with the strike.
The manager, Collin Christof said: 'No comment', saying he does not speak to the media.
The Divisional Human Resources Manager for Shoprite Namibia, Karen Smith, whose number was provided to this agency by the striking workers in Katutura, said they published a statement in the local media last week Friday and hung up the phone.