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Unions protest at Wal-Mar hearing

Companies

Despite numerous assurances from both Wal-Mart and Massmart (MSM) that they would continue to honour all existing union agreements and South African labour law in the event that Wal-Mart's proposed takeover of the local group is concluded, unions remain stubbornly opposed to the 16.5 billion rand deal.

The sound of vuvuzela's and chanting drowned out witness testimony at the Competition Tribunal hearing in Pretoria on Tuesday.

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South African unions have been vehemently opposed to the global heavyweight's arrival on the local retail scene. The South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) formed an anti-Wal-Mart coalition last year, consisting of various trade unions, such as The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), social movements and other civil society organisations.

Unions believe that the deal will lead to job losses and a flood of cheap imports on the local market.

Wal-Mart in November made an offer to acquire 51% of Massmart at 148 rand per Massmart share - a smaller stake than the initial 100% offer in September, but one that would see Massmart retain its listing on the JSE.

Lucas Ramatlhodi, co-ordinator and secretary for Saccawu, told I-Net Bridge/BusinessLIVE that the unions' would be “ecstatic” should the deal not be approved.

“At some point or another the moment of truth will arrive - the Tribunal will have to make its decision. We are still opposed to the deal and if they [Wal-Mart] don't want to invest, we'll say halleluiah,” he said.

But analysts believe that government and union opposition is ruining SA's investment reputation and consumers will end up losing out in the long run should the acquisition not go through.

“The concern is that the deal is getting very political, and as long as we have this stance on business we're not going to see international players come in and invest and set up operations,” an analyst told I-Net Bridge/BusinessLIVE.

“And in the end the outside world is looking at us and saying: are they a market driven by economy or agendas?” he added. - I-Net Bridge

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