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Cape Town - Union members at Pick n Pay have threatened to strike unless the retail giant takes action against a Canal Walk branch manager they have accused of racism.
South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) members at the branch allege the manager called them “monkeys and baboons”, and once locked a worker in a cage, said official Crosby Booi on Tuesday.
The manager, whose name is known to the Cape Times, has rejected the allegations.
Booi said the incidents had taken place in October but had been brought to Saccawu’s attention this month. Workers had lodged grievances against the manager and an independent investigator had recommended a disciplinary inquiry. The manager had been given a final warning, said Booi.
Saccawu had later met Pick n Pay general manager for the Western Cape, Jarett van Vuuren.
“The Canal Walk incident was the third. The same manager was at Cape Gate, then Vangate before he came to Canal Walk. We asked the company for CCTV evidence of the worker put in a cage, for its policy on racism and for action against him. They said they had followed internal procedures and the matter was closed,” Booi said.
He said Saccawu had referred the matter to Pick n Pay’s head office and was waiting for a response.
“Our members have vowed to strike if no action is taken.
“This is not the first time racism was experienced at Pick n Pay.
“In 2009 there was a national strike because of racism in the company,” Booi said.
The manager said: “These allegations are untrue and the company is busy dealing with people making those allegations.”
Pressed about a disciplinary hearing he had faced, he said: “Speak to my general manager. I’m not commenting on those things.”
Asked about his transfers, he said: “I move to stores in the Western Cape.
“That is how the business is. People move all the time. I’ve never been moved due to allegations of racism.”
Van Vuuren would only say: “Pick n Pay cannot comment on disciplinary matters through the press.”
Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich warned of protest action at Pick n Pay if the manager was not removed by the end of the month.
He called on Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to condemn the action and to threaten to dispose of her Pick n Pay shares unless the company took strong action.
Workers made the same demand of her in a 2009 dispute with Pick n Pay over racism, but she declined.