Makro denies claims that it intends to withhold increases for festive season

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Workers disgruntled over low wages and changes to terms and conditions of employment, go on strike outside a Walmart-led Massmart Holdings owned Makro store in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 19, 2021.  Photo: Reuters/ Sumaya Hisha,
Workers disgruntled over low wages and changes to terms and conditions of employment, go on strike outside a Walmart-led Massmart Holdings owned Makro store in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 19, 2021. Photo: Reuters/ Sumaya Hisha,

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Makro has rubbished claims that it intends to withhold increases and back pay during the festive period for striking union members.

This is according to Massmart's vice-president Brian Leroni, who told City Press that this would be illegal.

"There is absolutely no intention whatsoever by Makro to withhold bonuses if union members do not resign from the union. Not least because this would be illegal," said Leroni.

But Leroni has revealed that at least a hundred members had resigned from the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu).  

“It is, however, true that a few hundred Saccawu members have resigned by choice so that they can receive their increases, including back pay, and avoid strike action, which undermines their sales commission earning potential during the festive trading period in our stores,” said Leroni.

He added that the union's core demand for a 12% increase occurs even though they have settled at 4.5% at Game and Builder's Warehouse stores. Besides that, Makro pays the highest minimum wage in the retail industry and has the best maternity and pension benefits, he said.  

“Interestingly, we have received feedback from shop stewards that while they agree the company cannot afford a higher increase, the union has instructed them to strike at Makro. We have little insight into this instruction other than to speculate that it is linked to wider industrial action taking place elsewhere in the country.” 

READ: Makro claims workers are resigning from union as strike intensifies

Meanwhile, the second deputy president of Saccawu, Mike Tau, dispelled that workers had resigned from the union. 

He said: “Makro has turned a blind eye to various memoranda that were submitted to them on October 28 2022. Instead of responding to our memorandum and heeding the initiative by the union to return to the table and find an amicable solution to the current dispute, the company has elected to threaten members to withhold payment of bonuses through an internal memo.”  

Makro employees during wage increase demonstration. Photo: Supplied

In a communication that was reportedly dispatched to Makro employees on November 18 seen by City Press, the firm claims that the shop stewards seem more interested in a strike action than to settle a wage agreement.   

“If the company does not reach the agreement with the union by latest November 25, then we are considering not paying back for any agreement reached after this date, if the company does not reach an agreement with the union by December 31, then we are considering moving straight to the 2023 wage negotiation, rather than continuing with this year's negotiations,” read the letter.  

It further said that if the workers decided to resign from the union, then they were guaranteed to be paid this year's increase and back pay for the Christmas season. 

Makro could not confirm this communication by the time of publication.

“This is a clear violation of the country’s Constitution, especially section 18, which guarantees everyone, including our members, the right to freedom of association. Over and above this, the company and the Massmart group have a long track record of unfair labour practices,” said a Saccawu statement. 

Saccawu has no plans for backing down on the strike action. It further declares an indefinite strike action that will commence on December 2.

Leroni conceded that Makro has been aware for eight weeks that the union planned the strike.

“The result is that we have had more than enough time to implement contingency plans, which have included training and deploying temporary staff to our Makro stores. A few hundred staff who have resigned from the union in recent weeks will also be in store to serve our customers.”

Makro interdicts the strike on Black Friday 

Makro applied for an urgent interdict on Friday to enforce good picketing rules and conduct by Saccawu members.

The store confirmed that the labour court had granted the urgent interdict that stopped the union from disrupting store operations.

“Saccawu members converged on the Makro store in Germiston, Ekurhuleni, where they obstructed traffic on the public road outside the store. The SAPS requested Saccawu members to clear the road. Unfortunately, the Saccawu membership responded in a highly confrontational manner. This resulted in SAPS taking action to disperse the Saccawu members, who responded by disrupting traffic on the highway adjacent to the store,” said Leroni.

He added that the union officials  ignored requests to intervene in the matter to restore good order.

Meanwhile, Tau claimed that Saccawu had been alerted that the police shot at their union members in Germiston.

Makro striking workers shot with bullets. Photo: Supplied
Saccawu memebers shot at with bullets. Photo: Supplied

He said: “Our members have been provoked while demonstrating peacefully and this confirms our presentation during the entrance of Walmart in 2011. We opposed their entry [into the country] because we were fully aware of what kind of employers they were. However, we are still engaging in the steps we need to take against the company.”


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