06 Oct 2013 09:40
WINDHOEK/OSHAKATI, 06 OCT (NAMPA) Employees of The Foschini Group (TFG)s stores in Namibia have embarked on a country-wide strike, demanding a salary increment of N.dollars 480.
The employees, who are members of the Namibian Wholesale and Retail Workers Union (NWRWU), have turned down the companys offer of a N.dollars 310 increase.
They started striking at 09h00 on Sunday morning, although the operations at the groups shops were not affected with the exception of Oshakati.
The striking employees are union members, while the shops are being manned by managers and employees who are not members of the union.
Speaking to Nampa from South Africa on Sunday, Karde Buys from TFGs Human Resources department confirmed that the Oshakati stores were closed.
Due to the unruly behaviour of the demonstrating employees we decided to shut down those stores. The workers threatened those who are working with violence, but the situation is under control as the Namibian Police were called in to monitor the situation, she said.
Buys said the groups stores in the rest of the country were open and the situations there were calm as the employees were engaged in peaceful demonstrations.
A handful of employees of TFG in Oshakati started protesting on Sunday morning, saying they will not go back to work before the management of the company agrees to a N.dollars 480 increase.
The NWRWU shop steward at the Oshakati Foschini outlet, Laina Mushungula would not disclose the employees salary bracket when asked to shed light on how much the company pays its employees.
It is difficult for me to say because salary details are strictly confidential at this company, Mushungula replied.
NWRWU representative Justina Hamukwaya told this news agency on the sidelines of the strike at Oshakatis Game Shopping Complex wage negotiations between the company and the union started early this year and a dispute between the two parties commenced on 21 August.
TFGs stores amongst others include Foschini, Markhams, @home and Sportscene.
Buys said in a statement issued on Friday the group was given notice earlier in the day that staff at its Namibian stores had voted in favour of strike action.
She said the group was very disappointed with the decision as it has always had a good relationship with NWRWU and had negotiated with it in good faith over many years.
She indicated that every effort had been made to achieve conciliation and prevent possible industrial action.
It is very unfortunate that we were unable to reach consensus with the union over the proposed annual increases. We have been negotiating since March this year and have done everything in our power to avoid a dispute, she stated.
Buys went on to say the group believes the proposed monthly increase, backdated to 01 April this year, is very reasonable and fair.
In addition we have made a very significant move to increase our minimum wage. The current wage offer would see 75 per cent of our store employees receiving an increase of between 10 and 20 per cent. This is well ahead of inflation, higher than last years salary increases and the highest offer in retail in Namibia in 2013, she stated.
The group has offered its permanent employees a minimum wage of N.dollars 3 000.
There will be no permanent employees who will be paid less than N.dollars 3000 as from April this year, she said.
Buys said TFGs approach has always been to pay an equitable increase which is above inflation, irrespective of the retail sectors cyclical performance.
It also provides staff with numerous other benefits, including religious, study, sport as well as maternity and paternity leave and pension fund with free funeral, death and disability cover, she said, adding that for the past four years it has offered one of most advanced free HIV testing and treatment benefits.
She said TFG was committed to the welfare of its entire staff complement, as well as to its broader corporate responsibilities in Namibia, and the group remained committed to playing their role in the Namibian economy.
Efforts to get comment from the union proved futile.