Police fire rubber bullets to disperse striking Dis-Chem workers

2018-11-16 15:50

Gauteng police used rubber bullets on Friday to disperse about 2 000 workers belonging to the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), who were protesting outside Dis-Chem's offices in Midrand, Johannesburg. 

The workers are demanding a salary increase of up to R12 500 and annual bonuses equal to basic salaries. 

Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said the situation was calm and that police were monitoring the situation. 

"It turned violent and we had to use rubber bullets to disperse the crowd," Masondo said. 

Masondo added that no one has been arrested and no cases have been opened.

Union chairperson Solly Malema said the strike was a national one and that employees from Mpumalanga, the Western Cape and Gauteng were participating.

"We are still checking with other provinces on how far they are," he added.

He said the employer was not prepared to negotiate with the union, saying they were not in the majority. 

"We tabled the wage demands in June before the employer. The employer is not fighting financial constraints but [is] simply saying because we are not in majority or more than 30%, we cannot enter into negotiations," Malema said.

Not in formal negotiations  

He added that according to their records, they were more than the 30% and were therefore in a position to negotiate with the employer. 

"What the employer is doing is that when we send membership forms, they do not load them on their payroll system and are doing so deliberately to make sure we do not reach that 30%," Malema alleged. 

However, Dis-Chem spokesperson Caryn Barker maintained that Nupsaw was not representative in the organisation. 

"They have less than 14% representativity and based on that, we can't negotiate with them and we can't recognise them," she said. 

She said they were not in formal negotiations with the union. 

No work no pay

In a statement, the company made it clear that the workers' wage demands were "unreasonable given the current economic climate and that they would severely impact the company’s future operations".

"Increases are awarded annually in March and are not given at random times of the year. Although bonuses are impossible to guarantee and are therefore at the discretion of Dis-Chem's management, the company has endeavoured to pay these when company performance and circumstances allowed for it," it said.

The company added that the no work, no pay, no benefit policy would apply during the strike.

"The company is not in a position to meet Nupsaw's wage demands, which are totally unreasonable. Sadly, the dispute will hurt striking workers, who will enter the festive season with diminished earnings," Barker said.

She said there were contingency plans in place to ensure Dis-Chem stores were operating as normal, with minimal disruptions. 

Saftu in solidarity

Malema said the workers were only willing to return to work if the employer expressed a willingness to negotiate with them. 

He said they stood in solidarity with the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu). 

"The strike will continue until the employer responds positively to our demands. The mandate from workers is that if the employer opens up wage negotiation and allow us to have a discussion, we can postpone the strike and enter into negotiations," said Malema. 

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Read more on:    nupsaw  |  saftu  |  dis-chem  |  johannesburg  |  protests
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