Pretoria - Leading trade unions representing workers employed by American-based companies Walmart and Massmart have called on all patriotic South Africans to boycott the subsidiary stores for union bashing and ignoring the plights of workers.
Scores of workers from Makro, Game and Builders Warehouse descended upon the American embassy in Pretoria, demanding, among other things, the reinstatement of dismissed workers and for the companies to abide by the labour laws of the country while negotiating with unions representing workers.
Under the leadership of the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) and supported by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and its affiliates, the unions alleged that the American companies had since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic waged a “serious offensive” on unions and workers.
They said the total takeover by Walmart had led to a deterioration in industrial relations wherein draconian measures had replaced cordial industrial relations and similarly led to the unfair dismissal of almost 600 workers.
Trade unions representing workers employed by Walmart and Massmart have called on South Africans to boycott the subsidiary stores for ignoring workers' plights. Workers from Makro, Game, and Builders Warehouse were at the American Embassy in Pretoria to protest. pic.twitter.com/7klWigvGM4— Pretoria News (@pretorianews) April 5, 2023
And even though the unions claimed that they had been negotiating with the companies for close to 12 months and staged a protest march on March 24, none of the workers' demands had been acceded to or responded to.
Some of the worker's demands include an across-the-board increase of R900 or a 12% increase, a minimum wage of R8 000 per month, and improved commission from 10% to 20% for salespersons.
In addition, they demanded a 13th cheque to be made separate from workers' December salary, a uniform allowance of R100 and a moratorium on retrenchments for the duration of the agreement concluded on April 13, 2019, the reinstatement of dismissed workers and desist from draconian measures and practices.
Darlington Ndlovu, the National company chairperson of Makro and Saccawu, said their challenge was that the employer was using dismissals as a form of retrenchment simply because workers demanded a fair increase to enable workers to take care of their families.
"Instead of responding to us they use our own comrades to fight us and the resources they have, and all we can do is withdraw our labour. This is our fight, this is our country, and we are demanding what is rightful to us.
"The message to the American Embassy is that if a company which we gave permission to come to this country is behaving as if it owns the country, it must go back. South Africans must be patriotic about their own country and countrymen and women."
Ndlovu said although the companies were denying and publishing that their stores had not been negatively affected by the withdrawal of labour, that was far from the truth.
A member of Cosatu said although the embassy had agreed to bring a representative to receive the unions' memorandum, they were changing things at the last minute, which was precisely how they were handling workers and union leaders during negotiation.
The unions vowed that the demonstration would not be the last time that the embassy or the companies heard from them, as they would intensify their efforts to ensure workers' demands were heard.
In the same vein, they implored South Africans to be patriotic and not to allow companies to disrespect and blatantly disregard the labour laws of the country by unfairly dismissing workers and undermining the collective bargaining processes.