Shoprite workers down tools

MASERU — Just M610 a month.

This is what general workers are earning at retail giant Shoprite Supermarket in Maseru.

This week emotions boiled over with the workers downing tools demanding a salary increment.

The workers were joined by employees from Usave Supermarket and OK Furniture, subsidiaries of Shoprite Group.

The placard waving workers sang protest songs at entrances of the shops accusing management of paying wages “far lower than the minimum set by the wages board and appearing in the government gazette”.

General workers at Shoprite are paid M610 per month against a minimum wage of M1 300 gazetted by the law.

The employees complained that the pay was not enough to meet their daily expenditures.

A shop steward for the National Union of Commerce, Catering and Allied Workers in Shoprite, Pheello Thite, told the Lesotho Times that they
wanted the company to hike their wages by just M250 a month.

Shoprite management had however refused.

“Even that M860 is still far below the lawful minimum wage but the management does not want to hear us at all,” Thite said.

“All our attempts have not bore us any fruits. We tried negotiations, embarking on a go-slow action and now we are picketing,” he said.

Thite said the management was in the habit of hiring most workers as casuals in the hope that they would have no rights to demand wage increments.

The workers said some of them have worked for 14 years but they were still classified as casual workers and get a pittance in salaries.

The NUCCAW general secretary, Tšeliso Ramochela, said the union had no option but to take the matter to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR).

“The workers were negotiating for a M250 increment but the management is pressing us to go to the DDPR where we will talk about the legally binding minimum wage,” Ramochela said.

“Minimum wage is a law requirement and is non-negotiable,” he said.

“We are aware that a properly hired worker is paid M1 900 as a minimum wage but the Shoprite management can’t give us M860 despite our pleadings,” Thite said.

He said the workers were “fully aware that the company makes huge profits hence it cannot give any sound reason for its refusal to increase the
wages.”

Shoprite manager, Edwin Tsakatsi, refused to comment saying the headquarters had not authorised him to talk to the media.

However, the Shoprite Group website claims that the company “has consistently improved the efficiency of its operating systems and cost controls to raise profitability.”

“In the 52 weeks to June 2011 the Shoprite group grew total turnover by 7.3 percent to R27.298bn compared to R67.402bn in the 2010 reporting period which consisted of 53 weeks,” reads part of the website.

The company chief executive Whitey Basson is quoted as saying, “we have seen real growth of 9.8 percent.”

Basson said in the year under review the group added a total of 78 stores to its portfolio of which 54 were supermarkets.

“This has led to the creation of more than 7 000 new jobs — over a thousand more than estimated in 2010.

“This has led to an increase in our staff complement to over 95 000 people, of whom 11 000 are employed in our stores outside South Africa,” he said.

The group’s chains — Shoprite, Checkers and Usave — are now being frequented by 63.5 precent of all South African shoppers, according to the website. “Shoprite, the largest of the three, remains the dominant player in the middle to lower income sectors despite fierce competition from an increasing number of participants.

“During the year it expanded its presence in economically disadvantaged areas with full-service supermarkets, adding a net 11 new stores for a total of 331,” the company added.

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