A Spar retail in Wentworth, South of Durban. File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
The Spar Guild of Southern Africa and a franchise owner are in a tussle over the ownership of shops in three provinces.

Last week, the guild served a termination of contract order on the Giannakopoulos Group, which owns more than 20 shops in the country, for bringing the company's name into disrepute.

Last year, Chris Giannakopoulos was accused of physically and verbally assaulting employees at the Sediba Super Spar in Hartbeespoort. 

A case where he allegedly assaulted an employee with a wooden pallet was struck off the roll in January, when the State said there was no prospect of a prosecution. He was also accused of unfair labour practices.

In January, the Spar Guild gave the Giannakopoulos Group an order that he was no longer allowed to play a role in the management and control of the shops.

Last week, the Group was served with a letter that it would no longer be allowed to run certain shops. However, it obtained a court order on Friday that allowed it to keep operating.

In a statement published in the Zululand Observer, the group accused Spar of behaving in a reckless manner. 

“Citing debt recovery reasons for their drastic and hostile steps taken, their action has not only been deemed unlawful, devoid of factual truth and harmful to the businesses and the staff that rely on these Spar shops for their livelihood, but has also affected the many customers that have come to trust the Spar brand and its integrity and goodwill in the marketplace.”

The Hartbeespoort Community Development Initiative, which has been supporting workers who claim Giannakopoulos abused them, welcomed the move to take over the stores. It was also welcomed by the Department of Labour, which said it had received a series of complaints in May about labour law violations at Spar shops across South Africa. He said they all belonged to Giannacoupolous.

An enforcement notice was issued to the Group, but the department said Giannacoupolous had failed to rectify the situation.

The Department's chief inspector in Gauteng, Advocate Michael Msiza, said the Group had a debt obligation of R13million, which should be paid to workers for unlawful deductions, non-compliance with the minimum wage and overtime, among others.

The Spar Group’s Mandy Hogan said: “Spar cannot comment on the issue as it is a legal matter and therefore sub judice.”