Shoprite, Checkers ballot to decide strike

Windhoek-Following deadlocked negotiations on a salary increment, Shoprite and Checkers employees convened a meeting on Saturday to discuss whether they should vote for a national strike or not.

The meeting took place after the workers received a certificate of unresolved dispute from the Ministry of Labour on 10 February 2017.

Close to one hundred employees from different branches of Shoprite and Checkers in Windhoek attended the meeting. The ministry issued the certificate to workers after management failed to recognise their bargaining unit.

Shoprite shop steward Joseph Nambinga told New Era at UN Plaza, where they held the meeting, that employees had tried to negotiate with management for a 10 per cent salary increment since September 2015, but management did not want to talk to them.

The workers demand a minimum monthly salary increment of 10 per cent, which will raise their minimum monthly wage to N$3000 plus transport, housing allowance, medical aid and a December bonus.

Nambinga said if management did not agree to negotiate with them, workers across the country would proceed with the vote on whether to go on strike.''If they don't want to negotiate with us, we will mobilise the workers so that we go for a national strike,'' Nambinga said.

They plan to hold the ballot starting today and continue until 5 March 2017.

Samuel Kandji, a worker at Shoprite Katutura, said that apart from their request for a salary increment, they also did not consider the working environment at the company conducive.

He said sometimes, divisional managers expected workers to do work for a different department but still expected them to complete their normal tasks on time at the same time.

''We have been asking and begging. So we have decided to gather here to decide the way forward,'' Kandji said.

Another worker, a supervisor at Shoprite Katutura branch, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, said they wanted to work but management had been unfair to them by not listening to their request.

''Everything that Shoprite is doing is unfair. We want to work for them but at least do something about our salaries,'' the supervisor pleaded.

She explained that as a supervisor, she received N$2450.00 a month. With this money she had to pay rent, transport, food and everything, but the money was not enough to cover these basic needs. Currently, a normal employee at Shoprite and Checkers receives a monthly salary of N$1750, while a supervisor earns N$2450 monthly.

Workers contracted Petrus Kandjembo, a private labour consultant, since management does not want to recognise the Namibian Commercial, Catering Food and Allied Workers Union, which is the union the workers belong to.

He said the workers want to negotiate, but if the management does not compromise on their wage demand, they will proceed with the voting process. Kandjembo explained that management had employed some workers as part-time permanent workers since 2008, but he questioned what kind of an employment contract part-time permanent employment was.

''You cannot be a part-time permanent worker. What does part-time permanent worker even mean,'' he asked. The Shoprite group, which includes House and Home, OK furniture, Hungry Lion outlets, Checkers and of course Shoprite stores has about 80 shops countrywide.

Approached for comment on the ballots, Human Resource Manager of Shoprite Namibia, Karen Smith, said she was not going to comment on the matter. She referred this journalist to a conciliator at the labour commission who was not available at the time of going to print. In August 2015, Shoprite workers went on strike, which the labour authorities deemed an illegal strike after they failed to follow the right procedures.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia