Johannesburg - Deadlines have come and gone and disputes still rage but many among the 503 Massmart employees who lost their jobs three years ago are still waiting to get them back, despite interventions from the Competition Commission.
One of the conditions placed on the 2012 merger between wholesale retailer Massmart and US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores was that the former would reinstate all 503 employees who were retrenched from Game stores as part of a staff rationalisation programme.
Massmart advertised in the media and sent e-mails appealing to former employees to approach its stores. The company said at the time that about 300 workers had responded.
On July 29, the Competition Commission gave Massmart until September 5 to reinstate its workers.
Last week was the second deadline given to the firm to hire the remaining 210 workers – 154 according to Massmart’s count, said Mduduzi Mbongwe, the deputy general secretary of the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu).
“Massmart said they didn’t know 50 of the workers at first, and now all of a sudden it’s 10,” Mbongwe said.
He said that in March Massmart had claimed that it could not reinstate the workers as it could not trace them. Mbongwe said Saccawu had sent the company their addresses and proof that the fired workers were former employees.
“We have been meeting with Massmart, but the company is clearly delaying the process.”
Mbongwe estimated that about 240 workers had been reinstated by last December, but none hired this year.
A worker who was retrenched from a Game store said she had since enrolled for an entrepreneurship course to keep herself busy.
She said Massmart wanted to complicate things to make it difficult for workers to return to work.
“There were the lucky ones who got their jobs back, but they also still complain. But at least they have an income, I have nothing,” she said.
The former Game employee said as soon as she and her colleagues knew that they had won the Competition Tribunal case, they went back to the company. She said they were turned away and told to go to the branches discussed in the company’s personalised letters.
“But we didn’t go to the new Cambridge Food ones because the union said we must not go,” she said.
Another former employee who was retrenched from Game in Fourways said many workers had given up hope of getting their jobs back.
“How can you win a case twice and then nothing happens? We were excited, we had told our families we were going back to work, but nothing has happened since.
“They are not complying at all, it is clear that the company is undermining the court,” the former worker added.
Brian Leroni, the group’s corporate affairs executive, said the company had re-hired all 239 retrenched employees who reported for duty in response to the various media reports and personalised letters.
He said had Massmart appealed to the Competition Commission and the union to encourage affected members to return. “Massmart is of the strong view that we have complied not only with the legal requirements of the reinstatement condition, but with the underlying spirit of that condition.”
Mbongwe said other issues raised by workers, such as the use of labour brokers and back pay, would be dealt with separately. “The issue we prioritise is that of reinstatement.” - Business Report