This weekend is expected to be the busiest shopping period on the calendar ahead of Christmas and New Years, but about 30 000 employees of retailer Shoprite Checkers have downed tools in protest against working conditions and working hours.
The workers, who all belong to the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union, are engaging in a protected one-day strike after giving notice to management at Shoprite Holdings.
Speaking to City Press this morning, Congress of South African Trade Unions spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said that “it is an issue of working conditions unilaterally”.
Pamla said that workers had been expected to work longer hours without extra pay – they were entitled to a day off in lieu of overtime – and this was being challenged.
Other demands include:
• These workers will be demanding an immediate end and reversal of the unilateral changes to working hours; including the reinstatement of Sandton Checkers’s employees who were dismissed for protesting against these changes;
• They also demand the provision and payment of safe transport for workers who work night shifts;
• An immediate end to the reduction of working hours for part-time workers; and
• A guaranteed number of minimum working hours for part-time workers.
“Employees work late shifts without being provided with transport from the company. There was a lady from Pimville, in Soweto, who was raped and killed after working the late shift. This is why the safety of these employees is so important,” Pamla said.
“Twenty three employees from the Sandton City Checkers Hyper store were dismissed without compensation after they protested against the irregular working hours and we want them reinstated,” he said.
In a statement issued yesterday by Shoprite Holdings, the company expressed “disappointment” that customers would be affected by the strike, and that they “may not experience the service the group would like to deliver in the height of the festive season, but it respects the rights of employees to protest in a peaceful and lawful manner”.
The company said that contingency plans were in place to ensure that trading at the stores would proceed as normal.
“It is a priority for the Shoprite group to resolve the matters that have been discussed over a period of time through the appropriate channels in the interest of all our employees, as well as our customers,” the group said.