Nearly 600 Woolworths workers are facing retrenchment or early retirement if they chose not to take up new flexible-hour work contracts, the retailer said at the weekend.
Woolworths human resource officers visited stores in KZN last week to inform fixed-shift staff that they would be switched over to flexible shifts to accommodate the company’s 365 days-a-year trading policy.
About 3 percent of Woolworths staff nationwide are on 8am to 5pm fixed-shift weekday contracts.
Woolworths has 20 000 permanent employees for 400 stores countrywide.
Chief operating officer Sam Ngumeni said affected workers had been given three options – work flexible hours, leave with a voluntary severance payment or, for those over 50, take early retirement. - The Star
Woolworths provided IOL with the following statement to clarify its position:
Woolworths is in discussions with a group of employees regarding the increasing need for longer trading hours.
We introduced permanent contracts stipulating flexible working hours in 2002 to accommodate changing market needs for longer trading hours, trading over weekends and on public holidays. 97% of our store employees are currently on these permanent contracts with flexible working hours.
3% of our store employees are on contracts that stipulate set, inflexible working hours. (These contracts are older. From a time when set working hours were still the norm for the industry and stores were closed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.).
We are in discussions with this 3% of store employees, with a desire to move them to the permanent contracts with flexible working hours introduced in 2002 (which we prefer).
The voluntary discussions initiated by Woolworths present the 593 affected employees with a number of options:
Change to a permanent contract, with flexible hours, i.e. the type introduced in 2002. This option also carries the benefit of a conversion payment. (This is our preferred option),
There is an option for employees who are over 50 to take early retirement with an additional severance package.
Employees may, however, prefer to leave without taking early retirement. They will receive a voluntary severance payment.