About 300 workers from Dis-Chem’s Midrand, Johannesburg distribution centre demonstrated on the day. Photo: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Dis-Chem has apologised to customers and fellow retailers for the inconvenience experienced at a few shopping centres this weekend after some workers went on strike and protested at Dis-Chem outlets. 

Following the industrial action initiated by the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), and which had involved only a small percentage of employees, Dis-Chem shops around the country operated as normal throughout the weekend, the company said in a statement on Sunday. 

Although Nupsaw declared a national strike on Friday, about 300 workers from Dis-Chem’s Midrand, Johannesburg distribution centre demonstrated on the day. "The protest petered out after a few hours and things have remained quiet since," it said.

The Mall of Africa in Midrand and Canal Walk in Cape Town, where Dis-Chem shops were located, experienced disruptions for about two hours. "A small roving group comprising mostly non-Dis-Chem employees picketed at a handful of stores in Cape Town for a short period. There were also minor protests in Sandton City [in Johannesburg]."

To ensure shopper safety, additional security was in place at the shopping centres where Dis-Chem had a presence and calm was restored in all cases. “We apologise to our customers and fellow traders for the inconvenience they experienced,” Dis-Chem spokeswoman Caryn Barker said in the statement.  

No incidents had been reported in the rest of the country. “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 said.

At the beginning of the strike, less than 14 percent of Dis-Chem employees were registered as Nupsaw members. Dis-Chem stood firm in its policy that it would not negotiate with the union unless it had at least 30 percent representation among employees. 

The union’s demands included a minimum wage of R12,500 across the board, an annual increase of 12.5 percent guaranteed for the next three years for those earning above that amount, and a guaranteed annual bonus.   

"Dis-Chem has made it clear that the wage demands are unreasonable given the current economic climate and that agreeing to them would severely impact the company’s future operations. The majority of striking employees are from Dis-Chem’s distribution centres," the statement said.

African News Agency (ANA)