Black Friday in the balance for Massmart businesses as union announce a strike

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Massmart is expected to see a strike at its businesses on Black Friday.
Massmart is expected to see a strike at its businesses on Black Friday.
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  • Massmart may have its hands full on Black Friday after the South African Catering, Commercial and Allied Workers' Union announced a strike.
  • The union held a meeting on Sunday to consolidate its position on issues including the strike and a date for commencement of the strike.
  • Massmart says it is unaware of official notice of a strike, while the union has committed to issuing a statement.

While the rest of the retail sector prepares for the biggest single day in its calendar, warehouse and retail giant Massmart may have its hands full on Black Friday if the South African Catering, Commercial and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu) announced a strike at the company.

Black Friday, which is set to take place on the last Friday of this month, is an annual day during which retailers draw large crowds of customers with price specials on a variety of consumer goods. However, this time around, Massmart is expected to see a strike at its businesses on Black Friday.

Earlier this year, Massmart was dogged with threats of strike action over its plans to retrench staff and cut its employee headcount by as much as a hundred.

In a statement, Saccawu said it was is in dispute with the Massmart Group of companies, which include Mass Warehouse, Massbuild and Mass Cash, representing 229 stores nationally.

At Mass Warehouse, the union was in dispute with Makro, Game and Makro Fruitspot. At Massbuild, Saccawu was in dispute with Builders Warehouse, Builders Express, Builders Trade Depot and Builders Superstores. Under Mass Cash, the union was in dispute with Rhino Cash and Carry, Jumbo Cash and Carry as well as Cambridge. 

"The media conference will be held following a national strike meeting [a meeting to discuss the prospect of industrial action] comprising shop steward coordinators of all these stores," the statement said.

The union held a meeting on Sunday to consolidate its position on issues including the strike and a date for commencement of the strike.

Fin24 also got word of the strike action via a text message from a source. Makro currently has 21 stores throughout the country with an estimated 2 226 employees as of October. Massmart has had to grapple with reports of delays in paying out voluntary severance packages to retrenched staff.

Massmart spokesperson Brian Leroni told Fin24 that it had not been notified formally about an intention by the union to go on strike, but said it had measures in place to soften the blow of an industrial action.

"Massmart has not received notification of strike action by Saccawu. We do, however, have well-prepared contingency plans in the event of strike action, which in our experience ensures unimpeded trading at our stores," said Leroni.

Last year's Black Friday left much to be desired for retailers, with transaction volumes falling 33% year-on-year according to BankservAfrica.

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