A Dis-Chem pharmacy in Canal Walk, Cape Town. File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency/ANA.

JOHANNESBURG - Pharmaceutical group Dis-Chem Pharmacies on Tuesday condemned violence that broke out at some of its stores and distribution centres during demonstrations by striking workers, saying that it would continue operating as normal because the striking workers union is not recognised. 

This as Dis-Chem said that it has put in place additional security at the shopping centres where it has a presence following the intimidation and harassment of a number of its employees by strikers as they returned home from work on Monday evening.  

According to Dis-Chem, security guards at the group's distribution centres in Midrand, Gauteng, and Delmas in Mpumalanga, were assaulted and car windows were smashed.  

Dis-Chem workers affiliated to the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), declared a national strike on Friday. The union's demands include a minimum wage of R12 500 across the board, an annual increase of 12.5% guaranteed for the next three years for those earning above that amount, plus a guaranteed annual bonus. 

Dis-Chem has said that Nupsaw's wage demands are unreasonable given the current economic climate and that meeting them would have a severe impact on the company's future operations.

Caryn Barker, Dis-chem spokesperson, said in a statement that the group strongly condemns the intimidation of non-striking workers and their families, and calls on Nupsaw to stop using the threat of violence to force negotiations.

"We recognise our employees' right to join a union or to exclude themselves from union membership. Equally, it is our right not to recognise any union unless it has at least 30% representation among employees, as is the norm," Barker said. 

"This is an unpopular strike. The majority of Dis-Chem employees have no appetite for the industrial action. Unfortunately, some have had to stay away from work due to intimidation."

Barker also referred to rumours circulating since the beginning of the strike, including Dis-Chem's language policy.  

"We wish to make it clear that employees are encouraged to communicate with customers as directly and clearly as possible in their language of choice. Enforcing the use of English is not company policy and we are investigating claims that this is happening at some of our stores," she said. 

Baker said all Dis-Chem stores around the country operated as normal on Monday, the fourth day of the national strike, and that Dis-Chem has made provision for stores to continue trading with minimum inconvenience to customers.  

African News Agency (ANA)