In a statement, the union said more than 18000 SACCAWU members within the Massmart Group were participating in the protected labour action. Picture: Tracey Adams.
In a statement, the union said more than 18000 SACCAWU members within the Massmart Group were participating in the protected labour action. Picture: Tracey Adams.

Saccawu embarks on national strike against Massmart over wages and working conditions

By Dieketseng Maleke Time of article published Nov 19, 2021

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The South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) has announced that its members have embarked on an indefinite strike on Friday against the Massmart Group.

In a statement, the union said more than 18000 Saccawu members within the Massmart Group were participating in the protected labour action.

The Massmart Group includes Mass Warehouse (made up of Makro and Fruitspot); Massbuild (constituted by Builders Warehouse, Builders Express, Builders Trade Depot, and Builders Superstores); Masscash (consisting of Rhino Cash & Carry, Jumbo Cash & Carry, Cambridge, and various independent Cash & Carry stores.

According to the union, the strike action arises from the following disputes: a group-wide dispute concerning unilateral restructuring and unilateral changes to terms and conditions of employment.

"This unilateralism included attempts to impose a 40-hour working week, which include Sunday work with no premium as well as reduction of working hours from 195 hours to 120 hours, with consequent reduction of remuneration to workers, at some distribution centres," it said.

Another contention the union has with the Massmart group is a wage dispute at Massbuild.

"The Union is demanding an increase of R500 across the board while the employer is offering R320 or 4.1%," the union said.

According to the union, it was also in disagreement with the unilateral changes to terms and conditions of employment at Makro, which includes unreasonably high targets for commission earners.

"Joining workers at the picket lines tomorrow in all stores mentioned above will be Office Bearers and Regional Secretaries of Saccawu," it said.

The union also released a list of stores from six provinces that will picket. The stores are from Gauteng, Gqeberha, Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga.

Meanwhile, Massmart CEO Mitch Slape said: "We have been proactively engaged for many months with Saccawu leadership, including with the assistance of the CCMA, and have put forward proposals toward finding solutions, only for these to be stonewalled. This is an unhelpful approach in the context of the many constructive partnerships that are required to achieve inclusive economic recovery in South Africa."

The group said on 16 November, Saccawu notified Massmart of their intention to embark on a no-work, no-pay strike starting on 19 November 2021.

"This intended strike action coincides with a time of year when Saccawu members will potentially have higher household expenditure resulting from festive season expenses. It is also a period when Massmart employees can typically earn high sales commissions as the result of increased foot traffic in our stores," it said.

Massmart said the strike certificates that were submitted primarily covered a 10%wage increase at Builders.

"There are Builder’s employees who wish to accept the company’s offer of 4% rather than to go on strike," the group said.

Massmart said the union called for the reinstatement of retrenched staff of Game to their original jobs.

"The company has identified alternative jobs for these employees (which they did not accept under instruction from Saccawu)," the group said.

The group said Saccawu was also asking for better car and mobile phone allowances for approximately 170 Makro Customer Relationship Officers.

"These are issues that could cost striking Saccawu members up to 25% of their November wages, on the view that they may embark on a week-long strike, as sometimes referenced in the Union’s recent public statements. It is difficult not to conclude that the intended industrial action represents a Saccawu leadership power play that is not necessarily in the best interests of their members.

"This cements a view recently expressed by the Labour Court that the advice Saccawu provided to Game employees was ‘treacherous and dishonest beyond measure.’ Specifically, Saccawu instructed Game employees affected by a Section 189 process not to accept alternative positions identified by the company," Massmart said.

Massmart said it had strike contingency plans implemented to ensure the continued smooth operation of its stores. It said it mobilised and deployed experienced contract employees who are familiar with our store processes.


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